NPR News for Central and Northern Michigan
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Great Lakes Consent Decree nears final resolution

Greysen Johnson

A district court judge in Western Michigan has extended the timeline for finalizing the newest Great Lakes Consent Decree. The only remaining issue in finalizing the decree is between the State and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. This type of negotiating over fish in the Great Lakes has been going on for centuries.

"Fish swim around the Great Lakes and it's something that's valuable to people. So, there's going to be conflict over it. The question really is how is the conflict managed," said Marc Gaden, a historian and deputy executive secretary of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

The decree sets parameters between the State and tribal communities about where and how many fish can be taken from the Great Lakes. The 2000 decree originally expired in 2020. It was given an extension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Michigan DNR, six of the seven parties involved in the negotiations are nearing an agreement and the judge has established a process to have the issue resolved by the end of the month.

Although tribes have been fishing in the Great Lakes for centuries, they’ve only had this type of negotiating power with the state for less than four decades.

"They signed the first consent decree in 1985. And it was a 15-year decree. And then they renewed  that in the year 2000. And that was a 20-year decree, which brings us to the present day," said Gaden.

Several other organizations are involved in the negotiations of the decree, including the sport fishermen and commercial fishing groups.

A status conference for all parties to appear in court scheduled for December 16 in Kalamazoo.

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