Commercial fish netters getting more for less

It’s no secret that I do not like commercial fishing. I don’t like it in the oceans where the greed of commercial netters and long-liners have a long record of collapsing stocks of fish with little regard to sustainability. The oceans are huge compared to the Great Lakes.

Commercial fishing in the Great Lakes has an even worse record. Commercial fishermen mined the native lake trout in all the Great Lakes except Superior to the point the invasive lampreys could finish the job of extirpating them.

Commercial fishermen in the Great Lakes virtually eliminated the lake sturgeon, initially catching them and just piling them on shore to rot. They’d tangle their nets set for other fish. Get rid of them as a nuisance. As other, more desirable species dwindled, a market for them grew and the sturgeon were doomed.

There are extinct species of herring and whitefish that used to inhabit the Great Lakes. The last few left tangled in commercial nets.

By the time yellow perch commercials were sidelined in Lake Michigan the sex ratio was 97 males to every female. It doesn’t take a biology degree to understand the problem then and now.

In each instance, factors other than fishing played a role. How much of the declines can be attributed to each factor is a matter of conjecture, but commercial netting was always a player at some level.

There was never a thought of conservation, cutbacks or quotas to stymie documented declines by the commercial catchers. Their answer was to deploy more gear and work harder to get their share of what was left.

So the recent news from the Michigan DNR announcing Michigan’s commercial fleet caught fewer fish but made more money sounds good to me.

I don’t begrudge commercial fishermen the money they earn from the work point of view. It’s hard work, often in rough weather conditions and with high capital expenses and overhead. Most commercials are generational and brought up in the business. Few people would just “opt-in” even if that was allowed.

I doubt Michigan’s DNR will ever eliminate commercial fishing. Perhaps with time one family after another will get out of the business and the industry will dissolve.

In the mean time, if they can, as in 2014, catch 200,000 pounds fewer fish but earn five percent more money, perhaps they will shoot for an additional decrease in harvest in 2015 to make even more money! The economic law of supply and demand won’t allow that forever, but for myself and Michigan’s recreational anglers, I hope the trend continues as long as possible.

Categories: Blog Content, MicBlogs, Michigan – Mike Schoonveld

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