Saturday, December 7, 2019

Upper/Lower Red Lake Fishery Management Agreement Renewed  Signatories: Minnesota DNR, Red Lake Nation, BIA

By Michael Meuers - December 07, 2019 at 12:00AM

Red Lake Chairman Darrell Seki Sr., Minnesota DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen and Regional Director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Scott Sufficool pass and sign memorandums of understanding for the Red Lake Walleye Recovery Project during a ceremony on Wednesday at Seven Clans Casino in Red Lake.

Published December 7, 2019

Story and Photos by Michael Meuers

RED LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION — The December sun was bright, a wonderful relief from a dark November. Highway 89 and the Seven Clans parking lot were puddled with melting snow as the temperature flirted with 32 degrees. Leaders from Tribal, State, and federal governments gathered to celebrate and renew a special agreement.

In the eastern most break-out room of the Seven Clans Casino, Hotel and Event Center, leaders from the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) came together to sign a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 at 11 am.

The signing took place during a brief ceremony. The agreement outlines continued cooperative management of the walleye population in the Upper and Lower Red lakes. Among the 40 or so attendees were not only members of the Tribal Council, Red Lake DNR, Minnesota DNR, and Bureau of Indian Affairs, (BIA), but also Red Lake Fisheries, commercial fishermen, and the Upper Red Lake Association.

Following a meet and greet, the program began at about 11:15 a.m. with a welcome and introductions by Red Lake DNR Director (and Redby Representative), Allen Pemberton.

“When we first started out with this coalition there was a lot of finger pointing,” said Pemberton, “but thankfully we all realized that it was about saving the lake. We had that in common, we wanted to save the lake. And now? We are a model of collaboration known around the country and Canada. Members of the coalition have been invited to visit our northern relatives to share our experience.”

Red Lake DNR Director, (and Redby Representative to the Tribal Council) Allen Pemberton interviews with PBS Lakeland News

Pemberton introduced Red Lake’s Tribal Chairman, Darrell G. Seki, Sr. Seki spoke first in Ojibwemowin, as is his manner, before switching to his second language, English.

“Red Lake Band members are pleased that our walleye has come back and our fishing community is revitalized,” said Seki. “The best thing about this coalition is the extraordinary cooperation, a true government to government relationship.”

“Renewing this agreement will enable the Fisheries Technical Committee to continue its work to help protect this valuable tribal resource,” added Seki.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Sarah Strommen addressed the group next.

“We’ve come a long way in the past 20 years,” said Commissioner Strommen. “By renewing this agreement, we are reaffirming our commitment to a successful process that has delivered excellent results. It’s a model not only for fisheries management but for all kinds of resource management. This is what successful cooperation looks like.”

Bureau of Indian Affairs Deputy Regional Director Scott Sufficool spoke briefly offering congratulations to Red Lake and their leadership and all involved in this important collaboration.

The new MOU closely parallels previous 1999-2019 agreements that facilitated restoration of high-quality walleye fishing to Minnesota’s largest inland body of water. The pact states that each entity will support the Red Lake Fisheries Technical Committee, a joint panel of experts that recommends policies and practices to maintain a healthy fishery. The agreement will extend that MOU for another 10 years.

While the walleye population of Red Lake has returned from the collapse in the 1990s, invasive species, specifically zebra mussels, is becoming another concern for the lake. Pemberton said that the memorandum of understanding provides the framework for the governing bodies to work on that issue, as well.

Comments finished, Chairman Seki Sr., Commissioner Strommen, and Deputy Regional Director Sufficool, three sovereign governments, signed three copies of the MOU renewing the agreement to manage the walleye stock within the great lake.

Historically, Upper and Lower Red lakes were outstanding walleye fisheries, but they collapsed in the mid-1990s due to over harvest. That led both the tribal government and the state to ban fishing for several years.

The tribe put a ban on fishing in 1998. The state followed with its own ban in 1999. Both bans stayed in place until 2006. Today, roughly 1 million pounds a year are harvested from the lakes.

The Red Lake Fisheries Technical Committee was formed in 1997. Since then, the regulations, policies and other actions this joint body has recommended have led to a healthy walleye population and a resurgent walleye fishing economy.


MN DNR Commissioner Strommen presented a framed picture of a walleye to Chairman Seki who quickly passed the gift to DNR manager Pemberton explaining, “the gift should go to those who do the work.”

Pemberton then presented a plaque of appreciation to Gar Barnard, retired MN DNR area supervisor, who played a significant role in the beginning of the red lake Walleye Recovery Project. All shared in a light lunch before moving on with the day’s activities.


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