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COMMERCIAL WHITEFISH SEASON ON LAKE MICHIGAN EXTENDED SIX DAYS FOR 2011

October 18, 2011

MADISON -- Wisconsin's commercial fishermen will have another week to fish for whitefish, a season extension that levels the playing field with Michigan commercial fishers and stands to bring fishermen an estimated $161,000 in additional sales.

The state Natural Resources Board on Oct. 17 approved extending the commercial whitefish season to Oct. 31 in Green Bay and Lake Michigan for 2011.

"Wisconsin commercial fishermen deserve to have the same season as their Michigan counterparts," says Bill Horns, Great Lakes fisheries specialist for the Department of Natural Resources. "The board's action levels the playing field and allows them to compete, to support their families, and to sustain a longstanding industry in Wisconsin."

DNR estimates that extending the whitefish season by six days will benefit a dozen commercial fishers and would generate an estimated $161,300 in additional wholesale value, which would increase if some of the catch is marketed retail. Assuming an even catch distribution, each business stands to gain $13,583 per year before expenses as a result of this rule.

DNR proposed extending the season at the request of the Lake Michigan Commercial Fishing Board, which advises DNR on commercial fishing issues in Lake Michigan. DNR biologists who manage the Lake Michigan fishery reviewed the request and concluded that extending the season for 2011 would not likely threaten whitefish stocks in Wisconsin waters.

"We're confident the added harvest allowed by this extension will still leave the total harvest below the safe harvest level," Horns says.

The fishery is managed through a quota system that controls the total annual harvest. The October 25 closure date was set around 1970 and was implemented when whitefish populations were in a much more reduced state, but recovering. Current abundance and recruitment data indicate Wisconsin's population is healthy, Horns says.

In addition, anecdotal information indicates that fish are spawning at a later date than they have historically, possibly as a result of increasing average water temperatures, he says.

The emergency order extending the season to October 31 is limited to the current fishing season. DNR biologists have raised some concerns that will be reviewed further during consideration of a parallel permanent order, but they believe that the population can support the additional six-day season. Biologists will monitor the whitefish population for any adverse effects of the extended harvest season.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bill Horns (608) 266-8782; Kate Strom Hiorns (608) 266-0828

Last Revised: Tuesday, October 18, 2011




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