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Michigan DNR settles lawsuit with Michigan Fish Producers Association

Fish producers.jpg
Courtesy of Michigan Fish Producers Association
There are less than 20 commercial fishing operations in the state of Michigan.

A class-action lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has reached a settlement. Details of the settlement have yet to be made public.

The Michigan Fish Producers Association sued the Michigan DNR over regulations that producers claimed interfered with their livelihoods.

Michael Perry is an attorney who represents the Michigan Fish Producers Association. Although the settlement amount is still undisclosed, Perry says commercial fisherman are satisfied with the settlement.

"The Association's board of directors, members who participated in that were pleased with the result of the mediation," said Perry.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is responsible for not only managing Michigan’s fish populations, they’re also tasked with enforcing state commercial regulations and issuing permits to fisheries.

This has created a natural tension between the Michigan DNR and the commercial fishing industry that is decades old.

And this tension hit a crescendo in early 2021 when the Michigan DNR issued fishery order 243.

The order restricted commercial fishermen from casting their nets deeper than 80 feet and it ended the commercial fishing season on October 1st. For decades the season ended November Michigan Fish Producers association filed to sue the DNR for regulations that did not enable them to run their businesses.

"As long as I can remember, it ends November 1st," said Cameron McMurry, Vice President of the Michigan Fish Producers Association and owner of Big Stone Bay Fishery in Mackinac City. You catch a lot of fish in October, because they move in shallower. And over the years with climate change, all the invasive species, fish hang out a lot deeper than 80 feet these days," McMurry added.

The DNR eventually reversed fishery order 243 soon after the lawsuit was filed.

In June of this year, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill into law that amended part of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. The amendments included commercial fishermen to deploy trap nets no further than 150 feet and declared the commercial fishing season to conclude on November 1st.

Perry said the settlement agreement will likely be officially disclosed by the Michigan Court of Claims later this month. The Michigan DNR says they are withholding comment until the legal process is complete.

Editor's note: In the interest of transparency, we note the Michigan DNR is a financial supporter with WCMU.

Rick joined WCMU as a general assignment reporter in March 2022.