Scores of folks residing in the M&M area were saddened when they read an EagleHerald story Aug. 3 depicting the vanishing commercial fishing industry in Michigan because of to political decisions in Lansing. The story was reported by M-Live.com.
According to the news article, the traditional mom-and-pop style operations would move out of the Great Lakes for good, and leave the door open only for large, investor-style operations to take over the industry.
“What it does, it finally just chokes us out,” said Amber Peterson, operator of The Fish Monger’s Wife, one of the remaining commercial fisheries. “It doesn’t even offer us the dignity of a quick death.”
Several House bills are working their way through the political waters in Lansing that would add new regulations for commercial fishing — like providing the Department of Natural Resources with GPS coordinates of their nets and gear when being used on the Great Lakes and require lost or tampered with gear to be reported.
The major concern with the legislation, the parts of the bills that commercial fishers say are industry threatening, are the provisions that permanently prevent commercial fishers from fishing for perch, walleye and lake trout. This would only leave them whitefish, a fish they say is dwindling in numbers because it’s being eaten by lake trout.
The bills in the works are a part of an ongoing battle in the Great Lakes between commercial fishing and sport fishing.
Caught in the middle of the latest feud between commercial fishermen and sport fishermen is State Senator Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, whose district includes Menominee County. McBroom chairs the senate committee and promised there would be changes. He is trying to work a balance between commercial and sport fishing.
We don’t like to see an important part of Great Lakes history, and particularly the M&M area, vanish because two opposing groups can’t work out a satisfactory agreement. History persists when commercial fishing tugs, some from the Michigan side and some from the Wisconsin side, lined the docks at what now is Menekaunee Park. The appearance of fishing nets strung out on wooden rigs so commercial fishermen could make repairs, and the sight of fishing tugs chugging in and out of the crowded harbor are traces from the past.
It was common for men and women to visit the dock in the early evenings and await the arrival of fishermen so they could purchase freshly caught species before trucks and trailers moved the harvest to fish houses for cleaning, packing and transporting to markets throughout the Midwest, East Coast and Gulf Coast. Commercial fishing was a livelihood for many area families from Oconto to Cedar River.
Local historical museums have done a good job of reminding younger generations just what commercial fishing meant to the history of our area.
Commercial fishing and the many outlets that bought the species and turned their operations into successful businesses date to the development age of Menominee and Marinette. We hate to see this consequential story of our beginnings sail into the closing chapter of our heritage.