Fifth-generation fisherman protects legacy, sustainability of Great Lakes
“If you take care of the fish, they take care of everybody.” The words of Nels Carlson’s father echo through everything he does as fifth-generation owner of Carlson’s Fishery in historic Leland, Mich. Since 1904, the family has reverently handed down its elemental traditions while adapting to changes in government management priorities, revisions in fishing territories, adjustments in quotas, fish population dynamics, contaminants and invasive species. Carlson’s thriving, iconic shanty is an anchor of historic Fishtown and a model resident of the Fishtown Preservation organization that protects the waters — and way of life — of northern Michigan. “I consider my business to be at the forefront of sustainable harvest,” Carlson said. “Being a commercial processor, we occupy an interesting niche between harvesters, consumers, and regulatory agencies. We are often consulted by state regulators, researchers, and other non-governmental agencies as to the health and trends of the fish populations we regularly process. Our repeated access to a given population provides us a unique and comprehensive diagnostic tool.” Carlson’s Fishery partners with the Michigan Fish Producers Association, the Department of Natural Resources, and Michigan Sea Grant to protect the Great Lakes and ensure the sustainable harvest of their natural resources. "Our aim is to educate others in the industry about the importance of structure and planning to enhance stability, not just for what we can catch today, but for what might be available tomorrow,” said Carlson.