Louisiana – Critical Conservation Funding and Menhaden Bills En Route to the Senate

Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator

Highlights

  • Louisiana Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus (Caucus) Member Representative Tony Bacala introduced House Bill 691 (HB 691) to restructure hunting and fishing license fees to help the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) close a concerning revenue gap.
  • On May 18, HB 691 passed the Louisiana House of Representatives but with significant changes that excluded commercial oyster, shrimp, and crawfishermen from license fee increases.
  • Caucus Member Representative Joseph Orgeron introduced House Bill 535 (HB 535) which would establish a coastal exclusion zone where the commercial taking of menhaden would be prohibited.
  • On May 19, HB 535 favorably passed the Louisiana House of Representatives. 

Why it Matters: Passage of HB 535 would help conserve menhaden which are an important forage food for many recreationally important fish species, and HB 691 would better position the LDWF to provide services for sportsmen and women and manage the fish and wildlife resources in the “Sportsman’s Paradise” state. 

LDWF has historically relied upon oil and mineral royalties from state-owned Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) to provide funding for the agency in addition to commercial license sales as well as sportsmen and women generated dollars through the “user pays – public benefits” American System of Conservation Funding. Mineral and oil royalties have declined, and unlike neighboring Gulf Coast states, Louisiana has not had a recreational license fee restructure since 2000. Commercial fees have not changed since 1985.

HB 691 would modestly increase fees for hunters and anglers to help tackle problems such as understaffed WMAs, unfilled vacancies across many LDWF divisions, reduced shooting range hours, and non-native invasive species. The license fee restructure would combine many of the current hunting and fishing licenses to streamline the current complicated license structure. This effort is made by the LDWF to conserve Louisiana’s lands and waters.

HB 535 would establish a coastal buffer for commercial menhaden fishermen, whose harvest likely results in tens of millions of pounds of non-target species bycatch annually. The implementation of a half-mile buffer zone from shorelines and beaches would result in more positive recreational angling experiences and the protection of coastal ecosystems from large commercial vessels. HB 535 will not have a negative significant economic impact on the commercial menhaden industry, which harvests most of their catch more than one half-mile from shore, according to testimony given during a House committee hearing on the bill.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted multiple letters of support and worked with the Caucus and conservation partners to advance HB 535 and HB 691. Both bills await action in the Senate, and CSF will continue to support these bills to help conserve natural resources important to Louisiana’s hunters and anglers.

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