Cavitt denounces sturgeon endangered listing plan

Cam Cavitt

ALPENA — State Rep. Cam Cavitt, R-Cheboygan, on Thursday denounced efforts by U.S. Fish and Wildlife to list lake sturgeon as an endangered species.

According to Cavitt, the listing would prohibit anyone from harvesting a sturgeon nationwide, ending all forms of sturgeon fishing, which includes spearfishing on Black Lake.

Black Lake is one of two places in the U.S. where spearfishing lake sturgeon is allowed and is regulated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“This move by the feds is effectively spitting in the faces of all the sportsmen and wildlife experts that have been working diligently to preserve sturgeon populations and fishing seasons for decades,” Cavitt said in a statement. “Sturgeon fishing is a cultural staple in Northeast Michigan that the Black Lake community hosts an annual festival in conjunction with the season.”

Cavitt said that since this is a federal situation, there’s not much he can do, but he said that he’s closely working with the office of U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, who represents Northeast Michigan.

The office of Bergman confirmed the partnership with Cavitt and said that both politicians are “actively working on introducing legislation that will remedy this.”

“Right now, I’m bringing awareness to a problem that the public should understand,” Cavitt said. “The Michigan DNR’s fisheries and biologists, we have the best on the planet. If anything, the federal government should use Michigan as the model for lake sturgeon repopulation.”

In 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife received a petition requesting that it list lake sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act range-wide or as several Distinct Population Segments. By 2019, the department began collecting research and information nationwide.

On June 30, the department will submit a species status assessment that includes scientific research on the topic and will submit its listing determination to the Federal Register.

According to a written statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, if it is determined that the listing is warranted, a rule proposing to list the species as either threatened or endangered will be submitted to the Federal Register for publication.

Even then, the decision will be open to a year-long public comment period.

“We are working collaboratively to conserve and restore lake sturgeon throughout Michigan and much of their historical range with state, tribal, and federal partners, along with academic and non-governmental organizations,” a statement said, submitted to The News by Melissa Clark, an agency spokesperson of U.S. Fish and Wildlife. “We also work closely with federally recognized tribes to support their cultural identity that is tied to lake sturgeon. We are working with our partners on essential actions for lake sturgeon management such as: assessing population status, distribution, and movement; wild fish health screening; and stocking with our hatcheries and streamside rearing facilities.”

According to research at Michigan State University, the lake sturgeon population in Black Lake was at about 566 adult fish in 1997.

Now, 1,500 lake sturgeon are released into the Cheboygan River drainage system every year.

“The DNR is doing all it can to preserve lake sturgeon populations in Michigan,” Cavitt said in a statement. “Folks across the country recognize how important lake sturgeon are to the well-being of freshwater ecosystems. Instead of working with these talented individuals to ensure fishing can continue alongside population preservation, the FWS would rather impose a blanket ban on everyone.”

To reach State Rep. Cam Cavitt’s office, call 517-373-0833 or email him at camcavitt@house.mi.gov.


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