The U.S. Great Lakes Commercial Fishing Industry--Past, Present, and Potential

CED-77-96: Published: Sep 30, 1977. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 1977.

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Overfishing, predators, contaminants, and increasingly restrictive state regulations have reduced the U.S. Great Lakes commercial fishing industry to a mere shadow of its former prominence. At this time, there is little chance that the number of commercial fishermen or the commercial harvest from the Great Lakes will increase.

Fish farming is not considered a viable alternative to traditional fishing in Great Lakes waters. Knowledge from continued research on harvesting and using less desirable or low-value species may encourage commercial fishermen to expand their harvest. The future of Great Lakes commercial fishing depends on the extent to which the Great Lakes States want to develop and maintain a viable commercial fishery. The state and federal governments have stocked the Great Lakes with hatchery-raised fish, which have not reproduced as much as expected. The states have allowed only limited harvest of these fish. Procedures for determining the availability of fish for harvest have been inadequate. Federal assistance geared to meet the requirements of state commercial fishery programs will help to improve the fishery. However, because the states have exclusive authority to manage the Great Lakes fishing industry in their respective waters, the federal role is limited and it alone cannot direct the course or future of commercial fishing.

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