Treaty Rights and Fisheries Management:
How can fisheries regulation adapt to recent social and environmental changes in the Great Lakes region?
Over the last 20 years, fisheries production in the Great Lakes has dramatically changed. Representatives of state and federal governments and tribes party to the Treaty of 1836 must soon renegotiate the Consent Decree that regulates fisheries in portions of Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Superior.
Nearing the end of the first week of December 2018, Jim Dexter, Fisheries Division Chief for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is looking at a pile of phone messages and emails from the sportfishing community regarding Bill 1145 an effort to allow commercial fishing of Lake Trout on Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. Amongst these messages is a request for an interview from a reporter. He knows that she is looking for a quote regarding the DNR's support of the bill, but also working on a larger story regarding renegotiation of the 2000 Consent Decree that has served as the framework for cooperative allocation and management of fisheries resources in the 1836 Treaty-ceded waters of the Great Lakes. Thinking about these upcoming negotiations, amongst a seeming cacophony of stakeholder opinions and recent disagreements about appropriate harvest limits, Dexter wonders whether an agreement is even possible this time around. How different would that agreement be given the political environment, years of scientific studies, and the shifting baselines of Great Lakes food webs driven by species invasions and changing climate?