In a special meeting Tuesday, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board reconsidered an emergency rule for commercial fishing on Lake Superior. A majority of board members voted to table the rule in order to gather more information about its impacts to the lake ecosystem and stakeholders.
Julie Anderson was the lone board member to vote against the motion.
Last week, the board voted to accept the emergency rule. The decision put into practice a new agreement between the state Department of Natural Resources and the Red Cliff and Bad River Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa. But, Natural Resources Board member Fred Prehn said there are too many unanswered questions related to the rule.
"Particularly, the biological effects that this has on all resources up in the Lake Superior region," said Prehn. "I’m also concerned about the legal impact this has on all stakeholders in the agreement and region."
Prehn requested the DNR gather information on a quota for all affected species, including the survival rate of other fish that are caught while harvesting lake trout or whitefish. He also asked for more information about the effects the rule would have on sportfishing and legal questions surrounding the fishing agreement between the tribes and state. The DNR’s negotiations with tribes has been largely confidential.
Prehn said the board’s action would not mean the rule has been voted down.
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"I believe more information is needed for us to proceed with this very important topic," said Prehn.
Board member Bill Bruins asked if the agency is prepared to provide the requested information or whether it would "punt" to the next administration.
DNR Assistant Deputy Secretary Pat Stevens said it’s unclear when that information might be available and whether it would fall under the next administration.
"I don’t have a definitive answer for you about timing, but we certainly understand what you’re looking for and we’ll confer and see what information we can get you that satisfies your questions," said Stevens.
Representatives of the Red Cliff and Bad River tribes did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday evening.