House Bill 5255 – Spring Newsletter 2016

A message from Rep. Bumstead on House Bill 5255


Like most Michigan residents, I feel fortunate to live in a state with abundant natural beauty and I am fiercely protective when our natural resources are threatened. At this time, I am concerned that the Great Lakes, surely the most precious resources of all, are at risk from businesses who wish to begin large-scale fish farming operations in state waters.


Recently, I introduced House Bill 5255 in the Michigan House of Representatives. This bill would prohibit aquaculture on the Great Lakes, as well as connecting waters and openly connected waters up to the first dam. Examples of connecting waters include the Muskegon River, St. Mary’s River, Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, and the St. Clair River.


Aquaculture is the practice of rearing aquatic animals and plants in underwater enclosures and harvesting them for commercial purposes. Currently, there is no aquaculture activity in the Michigan Waters of the Great Lakes, but two companies have submitted proposals to begin operations. I introduced House Bill 5255 to get ahead of any future problems.


Aquaculture can result in numerous negative impacts on the local environment including the degradation of the habitat and natural ecosystem for wild fish; increased probability of algal bloom; and the negative impact on wild fish when introducing invasive species to the area. Farmed fish pose a serious health risk to wild fish because they escape from their cages and spread diseases


The fact is that in areas where aquaculture has been in introduced, serious damage to the natural ecosystem has occurred. In my opinion, it is simply not worth the risk to our state’s multi-billion dollar fishing or tourism industry.


Proponents of aquaculture say it would provide jobs and help supply the national demand for seafood. Although both statements are accurate, fish farming would only provide a handful of jobs, a much smaller number than the 75,000 jobs currently provided by Great Lakes fisheries. If aquaculture is permitted within the Great Lakes region, the $7 billion fishing industry created by the 75,000 jobs would be diminished, along with the stable ecosystem we currently possess.


Currently, HB 5255 has been read and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, where it currently resides. The legislative process in this instance has been slowed because of the opposing bills introduced by both the House and the Senate. Senate Bill 681 and House Bill 5166 have been introduced, and both bills support fish farms in the Great Lakes.  HB 5255 would prohibit these operations from ever gaining a foothold in our state.


At this time, numerous organizations have shown their support for House Bill 5255. including the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly, the Michigan Steelheaders, Michigan Trout Unlimited, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, and the Michigan DNR.


With so many conflicting ideas, the legislature needs to carefully consider each fact and opinion in order to reach a concise verdict. Because Michigan is the heart of the Great Lakes region, the decision the legislature makes will serve as an example for future decisions that determine how we use the World’s remaining freshwater. It is a complex issue and we must take into consideration every potential outcome, and take action now to prevent unwanted and unintended consequences.