ST. PAUL, Minn. — A key member of a group that advises Minnesota regulators on walleye fishing on Mille Lacs Lake has resigned.
Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Government Affairs Director Jamie Edwards said the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee has “devolved into an anti-science, anti-treaty rights forum subsidized by state resources.”
Edwards made the claim in a letter to state Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr, Minnesota Public Radio reported (http://bit.ly/2eoGGrQ ). Edwards was the only tribal representative on the 17-member committee. It’s unclear when Edwards’ resignation would take effect.
In the letter, Edwards accused the committee of dedicating “their meetings to discussing agenda items that dismiss scientific findings” and said they “do not respect the sovereign status of American Indian tribes.”
Edwards also claimed the Minnesota DNR was hostile and had “a nearly complete disregard for sound science.”
DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira called Edwards’ resignation disappointing, but he rejected Edwards’ claims. Pereira said he hopes to replace Edwards on the committee with another tribal representative.
Edwards is not the first to step down from the committee this year.
In May, University of Minnesota fisheries biologist Paul Venturelli resigned, saying “the DNR is effective at communicating the science, but the majority of the committee is steadfast in the belief that the science is inherently flawed.”
Once again this year, state officials closed the walleye season early due to the shrinking population. Mille Lacs was once considered Minnesota’s premiere walleye fishery, but the species has been on a long-term decline.
According to Pereira, the DNR has consistently maintained that tribal netting is not to blame for the drop in the lake’s walleye population.
“They want us to look closely at that, to see if there’s an issue, and we’re very, very certain there’s not,” he said. “That’s a tension point that still continues today.”
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org