Great Lakes Fishing Decree: a new era of commercial fishing

By Carli Stewart.

Updated guidelines for fishery resources in parts of the Great Lakes will be in effect for the next 24 years. The Great Lakes Fishing Decree was approved on Aug. 24, 2023, by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. According to the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), since the decree’s signing, the State of Michigan and tribal governments have been preparing to implement its provisions.

The decree is necessary due to five tribes, the Bay Mills Indian Community, the Sault Ste. Tribe of Chippewa Indians, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians who reserved fishing rights in the 1836 Treaty of Washington. Federal courts affirmed these rights, resulting in the need for a co-management framework to allow the sharing of fishery resources.

According to Up North Voice, this decree is the third since 1985, and each has included a fishery management structure dictating who can fish where, when, and how and what can be brought home or sold. The most recent version includes many updates, and the most notable changes are reporting requirements and areas where tribal commercial harvesters can fish.

Dave Caroffino, DNR Fisheries Division Tribal Coordination unit manager, said, “Tribal fishing regulations needed to be updated to ensure they are consistent with the changes outlined in the new decree. In addition, both the state and the tribes have been preparing electronic reporting systems to improve data collection from commercial fishers, wholesale fish dealers, and charter captains.”

Up North Voice shared that the information collected from fisheries is vital to management and will be used by the state and the tribes to monitor fish populations and establish regulations in the future. The Great Lakes ecosystem has significantly changed since the 2000 Consent Decree, and the new decree must implement fishing regulations to amend these changes