Poll finds overwhelming public opposition to Great Lakes fish farming proposals
Michigan residents overwhelmingly oppose proposals to allow commercial fish farming in the Great Lakes, poll results released Tuesday show. The EPIC-MRA poll found that nearly 7 in 10 Michiganders are against opening Michigan's Great Lakes waters to commercial net-pen aquaculture. The opposition cut across geographic, political and demographic lines and increased when participants learned more about the issue.
"These results point to the deep love for the Great Lakes that unifies Michigan residents from all walks of life," said Sean Hammond, deputy policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council. "It's abundantly clear from the polling data that the people of Michigan aren't willing to jeopardize the health of the Great Lakes for a handful of jobs."
State officials are considering multiple proposals to site commercial fish farms in Michigan's Great Lakes waters, where none are currently permitted. Recent state reports confirmed many of the environmental concerns raised by conservation groups, including the dumping of untreated waste into the Great Lakes, potential disease transmission to wild fish and the possibility that escaped farm fish will breed with wild fish, weakening the genetic diversity and hardiness of Great Lakes fish populations.
The state reports also noted that the proposed fish farms would produce at most 44 jobs. Recreational fishing in Michigan alone supports some 38,000 jobs that commercial aquaculture would put at risk.
"Our members are rightfully concerned about this," said Dan Eichinger, executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs. "It is our responsibility to protect the fisheries of the Great Lakes."
Click here to download survey responses
Click here to download crosstab data
Among the poll's key findings:
- Based on what they already knew or had heard on the topic, 56 percent of respondents were opposed to allowing fish farming in the Great Lakes, with 37 percent strongly opposed.
- When participants were presented with more information on proposed Great Lakes aquaculture, opposition increased to 68 percent, with 47 percent strongly opposed.
- A majority of respondents from every region of the state were opposed, with the strongest opposition -- at 77 percent -- in northern Michigan, where the proposed aquaculture operations would be sited.
Legislation on fish farming is pending in both chambers. Senate Bill 526, sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones, and House Bill 5255, sponsored by Rep. Jon Bumstead, would ban net-pen aquaculture in the Great Lakes and connecting waters.
Michigan Environmental Council
Michigan United Conservation Clubs
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