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Fishermen drop anchor on the statehouse lawn

Rick Brewer
Chefs prepared a variety of fish on the statehouse lawn in Lansing on Tuesday. Commercial fisherman sought to shine a light on the regulations surrounding their industry. "Seafood has ten times the amount of regulations than any other protein source," said Lauren Jescovitch of Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension. "And so the dynamics of regulations are cumbersome to the producers."

Commercial fishermen and aquaculture farmers from across Michigan took over the statehouse lawn in Lansing today.

The event was a chance for fishermen to show lawmakers the benefits of Michigan’s commercial fishing industry and independent hatcheries.

It's part of an education campaign dubbed Michigan Fresh Fish and supported by funded from the CARES act to promote fish consumption.

According to researchers at Michigan State, over 90% of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported from other countries and the number of Michigan-based producers are dwindling.

Producers say state regulations have caused their industries to shrink from several hundred fisheries in the 1960s to only a handful today.

"Nobody knows that there’s restrictions on Michigan commercial fishermen," said Lakon Williams, whose family owns and operates Bay Port Fish Company. "I think they assume that we’re all regulated the same. So they think that us, the Natives, and Canada, we have all the same rules. It’s completely opposite."

Rick Brewer
Whitefish fillets were prepared for lawmakers and the public to eat as part of the Michigan Fresh Fish campaign that made a stop at the statehouse.

Lauren Jescovitch of Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University said a recently published list of 300 commodities made in Michigan by the state's Agriculture Council didn’t include fish. She says education events like the one at the state capitol are helping create more awareness.

According to Michigan Sea Grant, trout farmers are regulated by three state agencies, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Energy, Great Lakes and the Environment and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

"We have some regulatory issues that are tough on us, to be sure. The getting into the industry has got a lot of hurdles to it if you will," said James Glazier, whose family owns and operate Cedarbrook Trout Farm in northeast Michigan.

Glazier says when his father started the business several decades ago there were dozens of trout farms and commercial hatcheries around the state.

But now, Glazier says, he’s only aware of three other trout farms left in the state.

Rick Brewer has been news director at WCMU since February 2024.