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UP legislators support commercial fishing plan

SARA CAMBENSY

MARQUETTE — Four state lawmakers in the region have come out in favor of a plan to expand commercial fishing.

The bipartisan plan would modernize the state’s commercial fishing regulations while allowing more diversification of the commercial fish catch, they said.

House Bill 4790 by state Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, is co-sponsored by state 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.

House Bill 4790 would establish a commercial fishing advisory committee to help oversee the industry while permitting a small commercial quota for walleye and lake trout without hindering sport fishing. Violators would see increased fines.

The plan allows the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to issue up to 65 commercial licenses within Michigan waters should scientific study support it.

“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 in a news release. “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 noted the issue is urgent because a competing plan that would “gut the commercial fishing industry” has been introduced in the Legislature. LaFave and Cambensy both expressed disappointment in the Michigan United Conservation Clubs coming out against their plan.

In the July edition of MUCCs Conservation Insider, it was noted House Bill 4790 and Senate Bill 389 were introduced to fight back against the MUCC-backed and supported House Bills 4567-69.

MUCC said that with House Bill 4790 and Senate Bill 389, commercial anglers would be allowed up to 20 percent of the sport fish quotas, which would have to be created, in most of the Great Lakes waters and up to 30 percent in Saginaw Bay.

MUCC called it an attempt by commercial anglers to harvest and sell walleye, perch and lake trout, among other sport fish.

“It is important to note that sport fish are reared and managed through recreational angler license sales and the Dingell-Johnson Act,” MUCC wrote. “Commercial fishers pay nothing into the management of our sport fish. In fact, commercial anglers fees to hold their state license don’t currently cover oversight of the program by the DNR.”

MUCC’s bills would protect game fishing by preventing their addition to the commercial species list; codify a decades-old statute and regulations on commercial fishing; stiffen penalties and fines for the harvest, killing and/or selling of game fish; require Global Positioning System coordinates of nets be publicly available; and outline how many violations a commercial angler can receive before his or her license is suspended.

McBroom said in a news release that changes are needed because of issues with current Michigan law. Commercial fishing focuses on whitefish, and with the whitefish population declining, commercial fishers often inadvertently catch walleye and trout. These fish then have to be thrown back into the lake, dead or alive.

McBroom believes that rather than waste a valuable nature resource, these fish can provide fresh meals.

Markkanen agreed with the new bipartisan plan.

“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 in a news release.

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