Upper Peninsula lawmakers in the Michigan Legislature are uniting behind a plan to support commercial fishing and the region’s time-honored way of life.
The bipartisan plan would modernize Michigan’s commercial fishing regulations while allowing more diversification of the commercial fish catch.
A version of the plan supported by lawmakers from the U.P. was recently introduced by Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette. Her legislation – House Bill 4790 — is co-sponsored by Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, and Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock. A Senate version of the plan is co-sponsored by Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan.
“I’m happy to sponsor a bill that modernizes our commercial fishing regulations and supports an important, long-standing industry in our state,” Cambensy said. “These small fishing operations are family-run and multi-generational, with one dating back to before Michigan gained statehood. Commercial fishing offers Michiganders who may not have the means to charter a boat and catch fish themselves the chance to enjoy a locally caught state resource whether it be at the local grocery store, weekly fish fry, or their favorite restaurant.”
LaFave said there is urgency because a competing plan that would “gut the commercial fishing industry” also has been introduced in the Legislature. Cambensy and LaFave said they are disappointed the Michigan United Conservation Clubs has come out against the plan they support.
“The plan lawmakers from the Upper Peninsula support creates jobs for our families involved in the commercial fishing industry, and for the vast majority of families that don’t fish, it helps put the food they love on the table,” LaFave said. “We must enact these common-sense, bipartisan plan to protect this industry and prevent elitists from attacking our way of life.”
“This is a responsible reform that’s extremely important to our economy and our neighbors’ livelihoods – and that’s why U.P. lawmakers from both major political parties support it,” Markkanen said. “It’s a great example of working together to promote and protect and the U.P.”
House Bill 4790 establishes a commercial fishing advisory committee to help oversee the industry, while permitting a small commercial quota for lake trout and walleye without hindering sport fishing. Fines would be increased for violators.
The plan also allows the Department of Natural Resources to issue up to 65 commercial licenses within Michigan waters if scientific study supports it.
McBroom said the changes are needed because of issues with current Michigan law. Commercial fishing is focused on whitefish, and with the whitefish population declining, walleye and trout are often caught inadvertently by commercial fisheries – and they have to be thrown back into the lake, dead or alive.
“Rather than waste a valuable natural resource, we can make good use of these fish and provide fresh meals,” McBroom said. “We want commercial fishing to remain a valuable and viable industry in Michigan. This plan provides the framework to make sure a tradition and a livelihood passed down from generation to generation will exist far into the future.”