TRCP’s Ian Nakayama has been elected to the National Fish Habitat Partnership Board

TRCP’s Ian Nakayama has been elected to the National Fish Habitat Partnership Board

In the Gulf’s most significant seawater conservation outcome to date, the state Wildlife and Fisheries Commission approved a half-mile buffer zone along the coast that bans buggy boats from nets and increases penalties for fish spills.

(Baton Rouge, Louisiana) – Louisiana’s coastal, fishing and recreational fishing opportunities will now receive greater protection from industrial fisheries, after the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission approved a revised Notice of Intent (NOI) at today’s special commission meeting in Baton Rouge.

The NOI is expanding the current quarter-mile buffer zone, which prohibits industrial fishing near the coast, to a half-mile along the coast, while adding a wider one-mile buffer zone off Holly Beach. It also sets forth more stringent penalties and reporting requirements for future fish spills.

The commission initially decided to take action last October, marking a one-mile buffer zone after 18 separate fish spills, accounting for more than 2.5 million wasted menhaden and at least several hundred dead redfish. Reproduction size, occurred in 2023 alone. In particular, three spills in early September polluted popular beaches, exacerbated user conflicts with recreational fishermen and boaters, and once again raised public concerns about damage to shallow waters caused by the menhaden industry. The industry strongly opposed the initial NOI.

After a public comment period and public hearing at the Feb. 1 meeting, the commission voted to ask representatives of the menhaden industry and recreational hunting and conservation advocacy organizations to once again reach a compromise. The settlement was amended to ½ mile, retaining the new penalties and reporting requirements for future net spills from the original NOI. The commission also voted to allow the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to implement the new regulations immediately, before the menhaden season begins on April 15.

“The commission and Governor Landry asked us to meet with industry and work out a compromise, and that’s what we did. As with any compromise, there is some give and take.” Louisiana Coastal Conservation Association President Charlie Caplinger. “However, these new industry regulations are a very positive step forward for Louisiana’s coastal region that will provide much-needed protection for our fragile beaches and the fish and wildlife that live there. CCA and our coalition partners would like to thank Governor Landry, the Commission and the new leaders in Wildlife and Fisheries to help facilitate this agreement.

Menhaden Bay, also known as pogies, is an important food source for Louisiana’s popular sport fish such as redfish and trout. Nearly 1 billion pounds of bogie are harvested by industrial fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico each year, mainly from Louisiana waters. Until now, buggy boats have been allowed to fish closer than 500 yards from Louisiana beaches, where the boats often come into contact with the water bottom while stirring up sediment with their massive nets, affecting the feeding and spawning of a range of sport fish and birds. And dolphins.

A coalition of recreational fishing, wildlife conservation, habitat and boating organizations has been working for five years to expand public awareness about the impacts of industrial menhaden fisheries in the Gulf and advocate for some basic conservation measures, such as those included in the Nation of Islam.

“Conserving Louisiana’s vast but diminishing coastal fisheries and Louisiana’s important barrier islands, beaches and marshes has been a goal of our coalition for the past five years,” he said. Chris Macaluso, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Marine Fisheries Center. “We have continually worked with the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries staff, concerned anglers, vessel captains, conservationists, legislators at every level, and the menhaden industry to enact meaningful regulations that can help achieve this goal while recognizing the importance of fisheries. Commercial Fish for Louisiana’s Economy and Culture The Commission deserves a lot of credit for recognizing the validity of our coalition’s concerns and taking a major step forward in protecting Louisiana’s coast.

In 2021, Representative Joe Orgeron (R-54) first introduced a bill in the Louisiana Legislature that proposed a temporary barrier nearly identical to the NOI (HB 535). Due to industry opposition, the bill ultimately did not pass, but it sparked a dialogue among the public, legislators, and other decision-makers about the effects of intense purse seining activity along Louisiana’s fragile coast, and the effects of bycatch on the economy. Important species for other user groups, especially redfish and speckled trout.

“For more than three years, efforts have been made with little progress to put some common-sense regulations and policies into place for the Gulf of Mexico abatement industry,” he said. Rep. Joe Orgeron (R-54). “It now appears that these actions by the Commission moving forward will provide an increased scientific consensus around Louisiana’s largest fishery sector, as well as a better balance among relevant stakeholders for the upcoming 2024 season.”

“We commend the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission for this important step forward to increase the buffer zone for menhaden harvest, as well as addressing the conservation and user conflict benefits that will come with it,” he said. Richard Fisher, CEO of the Louisiana Charter Boat Association, The nonprofit trade association representing the best interests of Louisiana charter captains. “We also thank Governor Jeff Landry for showing strong leadership by overseeing the brokering of this agreement, as well as Representative Joe Orgeron for being a strong and vocal champion of the buffer zone in the Louisiana Legislature.”

The NOI will now undergo a 30-day oversight period, during which joint legislative oversight committees may choose to review it and make alternative recommendations. If they take no action, the NOI will be formalized as a final base before the 2024 menhaden hunting season.

Members of the Menhaden Bay Alliance include the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), CCA Louisiana, CCA Mississippi, CCA Alabama, CCA Texas, CCA Florida, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Louisiana Sailboat Association, American Sportfishing Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, and Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. , International Gamefish Association, Angler Action Foundation, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Audubon Delta, Guy Harvey Foundation, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, Mississippi Wildlife Federation, and Mississippi Wildlife.

Learn more here about the recreational fishing community’s efforts to better manage forage fish in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, and Chesapeake Bay.

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