WMU News

New exhibit to explore history of fisheries management

February 11, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- The historic tale of fisheries management and regulation in Michigan will be explored from four different viewpoints in a traveling exhibit being prepared by a team of Western Michigan University historians.

"Fish for All: The Legacy of Lake Michigan Fisheries Policy and Management" will take a historical look at how it became necessary to regulate fishing from the perspectives of those who have had the most influence on the resource: federal and state governments, Native Americans, commercial and sport fishermen, and environmental and conservation groups.

The exhibit is funded by a $198,720 grant from the Great Lakes Fishery Trust, which is believed to be the largest grant awarded to scholars in WMU's Department of History in 30 years. The exhibit is being compiled by a team from the Great Lakes Center for Maritime Studies, a partnership between WMU and the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven, Mich. The project is being led by Dr. Michael J. Chiarappa, WMU assistant professor of history, and Dr. Kristin Szylvian, WMU assistant professor of history and executive director of the museum.

"Lake Michigan fish have been a contested resource for years," says Szylvian. "This exhibit looks at the manner in which the most identifiable stakeholders -- sport fishermen, commercial fishermen, Native Americans, the state governments, the federal government and environmental and advocacy groups -- have handled, governed, monitored, and culturally valued the fish resources of Lake Michigan over the past 150 years."

The exhibit will feature artifacts, photographs and maps as well as oral history audio recordings which will explain each group's management of the fish in terms of motives, methods, effectiveness and consequences. In addition, educational and interpretive materials will accompany the exhibit and include a catalog and presentations for educators, adults and children.

"We want to raise public consciousness by presenting and interpreting the activities of each group and the particular view they have brought to fisheries management," says Chiarappa. "We will look at the management schemes, use patterns and values these groups brought to the fisheries by examining the policies, harvesting methods, scientific investigation, environmental advocacy, customary practices and life histories embodied in these perspectives."

The exhibit is expected to be complete in January 2000 and is tentatively scheduled for three month-long displays at the Dennos Museum in Traverse City, Mich.; the Michigan State University Museum in East Lansing, Mich.; the Door County Maritime Museum in Sturgeon Bay, Wis.; and the Michigan Maritime Museum. The exhibit will be permanently housed at the Michigan Maritime Museum following its travels.

For more information, contact the Great Lakes Center for Maritime Studies at (616) 387-7330.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu


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