Partnerships for a Common Purpose: Cooperative Fisheries Research and Management

Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association

Michael L. Armstrong and Jerry L. Rassmussen

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569858.ch7

The Mississippi River and its tributaries comprise one of the largest and most valuable ecosystems in the world. The basin encompasses more than 1.25 million square miles across all or portions of 32 states draining 41% of the continental United States. The basin extends from Montana to western Georgia within four major interjurisdictional subbasins: the Missouri River, the Arkansas River, the Tennessee River, and the Ohio River. Fish stocks in these waters provide important economic benefits to both recreational and commercial fishing.

The basin’s interjurisdictional rivers and their floodplains are home to 102 species recognized as threatened or endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The basin serves as a major pathway for the spread of aquatic invasive species such as the zebra mussel Dreissena polymorpha and Asian carp. Habitat alteration for navigation, flood control and power generation is widespread on the Mississippi River and each of the major interjurisdictional tributaries. Water management and flow regulation have been historically contentious and often litigious. Fish stocks moving between state, federal, tribal, and private management jurisdictions create complex resource management problems related to the management of important recreational and commercial fish stocks, protection of species of special concern, and prevention of the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species.

The Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resource Association (MICRA) was formed in 1989 by 28 of the basin’s 32 state fishery management agencies to address interjurisdictional fishery management issues through a basin-wide or ecosystem management approach. The organization was conceptually conceived by the American Fisheries Society (AFS) Fisheries Administrators Section during discussions in the development of the Fisheries Action Agenda for the United States.

In addition to the 28 states, MICRA membership also includes three federal agencies (USFWS, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Geological Survey/Biological Resources Discipline [BRD]), the Tennessee Valley Authority, and two Native American tribes (Chippewa-Cree in Oklahoma and Chickasaw Nation in Montana). The USFWS provides a part-time coordinator to handle administrative support, coordination, and grant management. MICRA activities are managed through an executive board with members representing each of the major subbasins entities currently operating within the basin: the Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee, the Ohio River Fish Management Team, the Missouri River Natural Resources Committee, the Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee, the Tennessee River Work Group, and the Arkansas-Red River Work Group. Although no formal working relationships exist between the subbasin entities and MICRA, it is this subbasin step-down structure that gives MICRA its unique ability to formulate policy and communicate issues across geographic and political boundaries.