DNR Meets Bait Harvester to Talk AIS and Regulations
Aquatic invasive species, or AIS are a nuisance for our lakes. They ruin the lake health as well as interfere with the how we use our lakes. AIS have become especially a major problem for live bait fisherman who say the Department of Natural Resources restrictions have driven harvesters out of the industry.
DNR AIS prevention specialist, Kelly Pennington, says, “We’ve gathered here today to better understand the process, by which people are harvesting minnows and leaches from designated invested waters. By better understanding that process we hope to better refine our policies and make a consistent policy for the whole state.”
The DNR held a round table discussion to get the perspective of bait harvesters from around the state. They chose Baxter as a central location. Before today’s meeting the DNR did some research about how the bait fishermen harvest their bait.
DNR aquaculture and fish health consultant, Paula Phelps, says, “We sent out a questionnaire to try to get some basic information about where and how people harvest minnows to see if there are trends that impact where risk is or where risk is not.”
The bait fishermen say they’re the seed for Minnesota’s lake-based economies. And without them there wouldn’t be as thriving of a tourist industry in Minnesota.
40-year bait harvester, Kent Clark, says, “Right now the live bait industry is very very fragile. Restrictions have come down on us in regards to invasive species to the point where it’s just about strangling us. ”
They also say they know their livelihood depends on protecting the well-being of Minnesota’s lakes and think the AIS problem is coming from another source. And those are the ones who should see more regulations.
Lincoln Bait owner, Barry Thoele, says, “While [the regulations] work for us and most of us are very good about, very careful about harvesting in infested waters, we’re still having a spread. We’re having more and more zebra mussel waters every year. And to me what needs to be done is education.”
The DNR says they’re going to have a couple more similar meetings across the state before deciding on new regulations that should work better protect our lakes against AIS without over regulating the bait fishermen.