George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, said they respect the contractual rights of the Red Cliff and Bad River tribes. However, he said that opportunities for sport fishing had diminished during current and past negotiations and noted that there would be a “considerable” impact on public sport fishers. He acknowledged fishermen`s concerns that commercial gillnet fishing in the Chequamegon Bay would continue to push fishermen into the lake, raising safety concerns. The Lake Superior Fishing Agreement is an agreement between the department and the Bad River and Red Cliff Bands of Superior Chippewa Lake that affects the allocation, management and regulation of cetaceans. Although this rule mainly concerns trade rules in fishing, it aims to maintain a balanced fishery for commercial fishermen, tribal fishermen and sport fishermen. “It happened behind closed doors like a secret trial, and then it rolls with a handshake or a signed agreement between lawyers representing the DNR and the tribe,” Bretting said. “Where were the athletes represented?” Fishing is mainly done with gillnets from both large tugs and small boats. Some fishermen also harvest fish with fishing nets. While most of the fishery is small boats, most of the harvest is occupied by large boats. White fish, sea trout, siscowet (or oily trout), herring and salmon account for more than 95% of the tribe`s commercial harvest. White fish is the dominant species sought by tribal fishermen. Scott Bretting, president of the Apostle Islands Sports Fishermen`s Association, spoke on Skype during the meeting. He said the agreement did not keep the resource, but “destroyed it.” In December, the Natural Resources Committee submitted the approval of an emergency rule that would have put the new agreement into practice.
Board member Dr. Frederick Prehn asked the DNR for information on a quota for all species involved, as well as legal questions regarding the fisheries agreement between the tribes and the state. The DNR`s negotiations with the tribes were largely confidential. The Natural Resources Board could meet Wednesday in a closed session to discuss possible disputes related to the impending approval of an emergency rule on the agreement. “The horse is out of the stable. The fisheries agreement is signed,” Meyer said. “There`s nothing you can do about it.” Red Cliff Tribal President Rick Peterson said in a prepared statement that the agreement preserves and protects the fishery.