Upper Great Lakes Tribal Fishery 2000 Consent Decree Update

August 18, 2022.

On-line Research indicates the  2000 Consent Decree Agreement originally set to expire in August 2020 but extended by a federal court order until the parties negotiate a new agreement is still being worked out.  Michigan Live reports that after being offended about not being offered a place at the negotiation table the Coalition to Protect Michigan Resources (CPMR) and Bay de Noc Great Lakes Sports Fishermen filed a brief on July 13, 2022, in the U.S. District Court Western District of Michigan Southern Division, that argues their members believe their interests in the state’s equally shared fishery with the tribes are being threatened. The groups want to intervene in the ongoing negotiations to update the 2000 Consent Decree under the Treaty of 1836. They claim they have been “shut out of the process”. Representatives feel they have been dismissed, removed from the conversations, patronized, or disregarded.

The state, federal and five Michigan tribal governments are attempting to renegotiate the 22-year-old agreement that governs fishing rights across nearly 19,000 square miles in lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior. 

The decree places an emphasis on whitefish and lake trout management. Salmon and other fish in the Great Lakes are a secondary consideration.  

The Michigan tribes involved in the 2000 Consent Decree negotiations include Bay Mills Indian Community, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, and the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. The Tribes retained their hunting, fishing, and gathering rights in the 1836 treaty, also known as the Treaty of Washington.  

Topics being addressed include how the fishery for each species would be divided between Tribal and State Interests, how that fishery would be managed and how the agreement will be enforced. The Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority the group that represents the Tribes is a governing body composed of each Tribes’ Chairperson and natural resource entity Chairperson. 

Our research indicates that the assumption the CPMR and the Bay de Noc group made in their filing about that Great Lakes fishery resources being “threatened through abandonment of sound biological principles” by state officials, should be hard to prove in court.  We observe that the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Fish and Wildlife Division Staff are actively working to ensure the Great Lakes has a sustainable and healthy fish population. It is to everyone's interest to keep the Great Lakes healthy.  

We can verify the Tribe's Representatives on occasion can be a rude.  Being rude is not grounds to file in Federal Court.  The court filing appears to be an attempt at attacking the CORA Member Rights to fishing in the Great Lakes.

Sources for this story in part provided by Sheri McWhirter | smcwhirter@mlive.com , https://www.saulttribe.com/history-a-culture/treaties    and http://www.1836cora.org/Treaties--and--Court-Decisions.php