Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator
Why it Matters: Menhaden are a critical part of the coastal ecosystem serving as an important forage food for many recreationally important species such as redfish, speckled trout, and southern flounder, among others. The establishment of a menhaden catch limits and reporting requirements would help conserve menhaden and support Louisiana’s nearshore recreational fishery.
Louisiana’s recreational anglers have continually expressed concerns about the proximity of industrial purse seines, used in the commercial harvest of menhaden, near shorelines and beaches because of the incidental bycatch of non-target species, the threat of continued damage to Louisiana’s shallow water bottom substrates by large commercial fishing vessels, and user conflicts between recreational fishermen and commercial fishermen that are fishing close to shore.
Last year, Representative Joseph Orgeron introduced House Bill 535, which CSF and numerous conservation partners supported, that would have established a ½ mile commercial menhaden harvest exclusion zone, which was seen as a compromise between the recreational fishing community’s push for a 1-mile buffer and the commercial menhaden industry’s stance of settling for a ¼ mile exclusion zone. The passage of HB 535 would have put Louisiana more in line with how neighboring states regulate commercial menhaden fishing. However, HB 535 ultimately died in conference during the 2021 legislative session.
HB 1033 aimed to put a cap on the overall harvest of industrial purse seines in state waters and required all commercial menhaden companies utilizing vessels equipped with purse seines to report daily set locations via GPS on a weekly basis to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The passage of HB 1033 would have begun to bring formal regulation to this industrialized style of fishing in Louisiana while not causing significant impacts to the commercial menhaden industry in the Gulf of Mexico.
While it was disappointing to see HB 1033 hit a roadblock this year, CSF will continue to work with the Caucus and in-state and national partners to support similar efforts to help conserve recreational fisheries that are culturally and economically important to Louisiana.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?