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Lawmaker wants to ban Great Lakes fish farms

Smallmouth bass
Wikimedia commons

A state lawmaker wants to make sure commercial fish farms will never be allowed to operate in portions of the Great Lakes controlled by Michigan.

State Senator Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, says commercial fish farming could create a huge problem with waste.

“This waste could create algae blooms, all sorts of problems on the shore, as well as out on the lake,” he says.

He says fish that escape might also wreak havoc on the lakes’ ecosystem.

Dan Vogler owns Harrietta Hills Trout Farm in Wexford County and says the legislation would put him out of business. He says there are only about 50 fish farms in the state and the industry causes no harm.

"It’d be really a shame to see this ruined by a group of mean spirited individuals with $2,000 fly rods who are intent on destroying the livelihoods of hard working farm families," said Vogler.  

Sport fishing groups say fish farms can spread diseases and pollute lakes and rivers. 

Conservation groups are backing Jones’ legislation, even though Ontario is the only jurisdiction on any of the lakes that currently permits commercial fish farming. It’s been two decades since a new permit for commercial fish farming’s been issued in the Great Lakes.

But the Jones legislation would also cover fish farms on inland waters that flow into the Great Lakes, including one in Grayling. 

*This post has been updated to reflect that the legislation would cover other inland fish farms. The term "could" was used previously.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.