Our view: Fill position, show zeal for sportfishing industry

Herald pull quote, 9/25/19

North Dakota’s fishing industry has grown exponentially in recent years. Between 2004 and 2014, statewide fishing license sales rose by nearly 64,000, providing a reliable indicator of the sport’s growing importance within state borders.

Unfortunately, collaborations between UND, North Dakota’s Game and Fish Department and federal wildlife agencies do not always reflect that zeal. Perhaps that can change in the coming years, and a good way to start is for UND to continue its dedication to fisheries research and education by vowing to fill a current opening within its fish and wildlife program.

It seems this would be a slam-dunk, and perhaps it is. The vacancy was created when a UND employee in that role retired last spring. But as the university reduces headcounts in some departments during difficult times – budgetary issues are prevalent statewide and not just at UND – we suppose it’s not entirely unlikely that a decision could be made to move that full-time equivalent fisheries position into another department. Or, it later could be decided to simply cut the position to save money.

That would be a mistake.

As noted in a story in Sunday’s edition of the Grand Forks Herald, interest in North Dakota fishing is at an all-time high. License numbers rose from 158,288 in 2004 to 222,118 in the decade between 2004 and 2014, and that growth has helped hunting and fishing become a $2.1 billion industry in the state.


Mother Nature has played a role, providing enough steady rainfall in recent years to more than double the number of lakes in the state. Two decades ago, there were 180 fishing lakes in the North Dakota; today, there are approximately 440. The refilling of the Devils Lake basin – from what essentially was a wide, shallow slough to what now is a regionally famous walleye fishery – has helped spur the fishing industry, too.

It all has led a phenomenon that 20 or 30 years ago would be considered unbelievable: Minnesota residents crossing our border to fish in North Dakota waters.

How can the state further capitalize on this natural and financial windfall?

By rededicating itself to not just fisheries and wildlife education, but also to collaboration and research. In the Herald’s report Sunday, Greg Power, fisheries chief for North Dakota Game and Fish, said the expansion of fishing in the state has made it difficult for his agency to adequately conduct research.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department doesn’t have a research branch, and UND staff and students can help fill that void.

And this is why UND’s coming decision about that single vacancy looms so large. Not only is it important that the vacant position be filled within the biology department, but UND should seek candidates that display and vow enthusiasm not just for educating tomorrow’s fisheries professionals, but also for creating a strong working relationship with outside agencies.

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