The following is an editorial from the Mankato Free Press.
Politics and wildlife management frequently conflict, and we suspect [the Aug. 9] decision by Gov. Mark Dayton to keep the Lake Mille Lacs walleye season open will backfire.
The risk goes beyond the potential overfishing this summer to the often difficult sharing of oversight of the iconic lake with Indian tribes, who voiced immediate disagreement with the governor’s decision.
There’s no dispute that the Mille Lacs tourism industry suffered last year when the lake was shut down early as the big lake’s walleye population crashed, and Dayton cited the economic impact of another early closing as partial justification for keeping the lake open. “I just couldn’t put them through that again,” he told the Star Tribune of the resorters.
But the tribes are unhappy with the decision. They and the DNR had agreed to limit the take off Mille Lacs to 40,000 pounds this year (four years ago it was a half-million pounds). Two-thirds of that quota, 26,800 pounds, was allocated to state-licensed anglers; the remainder was dedicated to the eight bands that have treaty rights to the lake.
The tribes are some 3,000 pounds under their quota. The anglers have blown past theirs at almost 38,000 pounds, even with this year’s new catch-and-release requirements.
The state claims that the key 2013 generation of walleye — the first generation in years to thrive — has been largely unaffected by “hooking mortality,” fish deaths caused by the mere act of biting the angler’s hook, and that therefore keeping the season open will not damage future spawns.
The tribes say the state has not shared that data with them, and dispute the conclusion. They warn that the decision to keep the lake open will prolong the fishery’s problems.
Regardless of the merits of the DNR’s analysis of the lake’s fish population, the deeper damage may be to the relations between the tribes and the state. The tribes have, it appears, kept their share of the bargain to preserve the fishery, and can justifiably feel betrayed by Dayton’s decision to renege on the limits. That betrayal may well echo in future dealings between the two sides.
Republished with permission.
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