Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Great Lakes Commercial Fishing: Success through partnerships.

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by LCDR Wm. Erik Pickering, assistant chief, U.S. Coast Guard District Nine Inspections and Investigations Branch.

Hundreds of commercial fishermen ply the waters of the Great Lakes, and many of them are members of the many tribal nations that share the waters with various states bordering the Great Lakes.

In 2001, the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority (CORA) was formed, consisting of a group of Great Lakes tribal nations: the Bay Mills Indian Community; the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians; the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians; the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians; and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.

Coast Guard Involvement
To oversee the fisheries management and enforcement of their tribal vessels, the Coast Guard signed memorandums of agreement (MOA) with the CORA tribes for the enforcement of federal commercial fishing vessel regulations.

In addition, two other non-CORA tribes, the Red Cliff Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, have also signed MOAs with the Coast Guard.

These MOAs established guidelines for cooperation among CORA members and the USCG concerning the enforcement of laws relating to commercial fishing vessel safety on waters within the concurrent jurisdiction of the CORA member tribes and U.S. navigable waters.

The Coast Guard agreed to provide training to tribal law enforcement officers or other persons designated by the tribes and certify them as dockside examiners. Another unique aspect of the MOA is that when a Coast Guard boarding officer observes a violation of tribal commercial fishing vessel regulations, the case is referred to the tribal court for processing.

The Result
District Nine sectors and local units have been able to leverage these agreements to expand their ability to ensure the safety of the commercial fisherman. Their efforts seek to prevent personnel and vessel casualties through enforcement of federal regulations and outreach and education to ensure vessels are compliant with federal and tribal regulations.
PICTURED: Tribal treaty waters and locations of CORA tribes courtesy of the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority and used with their permission.