Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Commission Considers Menhaden Harvest Exclusion Zone

Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator

Highlights

  • The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Commission (Commission) met on October 7, 2021, to discuss several items, including the implementation of a ¼-mile menhaden harvest exclusion zone.
  • The Commission narrowly voted in favor of a ¼-mile exclusion zone.
  • Earlier this year, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) supported Louisiana Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Representative Joseph Orgeron’s House Bill 535 which would have established a ½-mile coastal exclusion zone from shore where the commercial taking of menhaden would have been prohibited, but it ultimately died in conference.
  • HB 535 was introduced in the legislature as a compromise between the proposed ¼-mile buffer proposed by the commercial industry and the 1-mile buffer proposed by the recreational fishing community.


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.  

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.

The passage of a ¼-mile exclusion zone may be seen as a step in the right direction, yet there remains concern in the recreational fishing community that this will not be enough to adequately limit the impact made by near-shore commercial menhaden fishing.

One million dollars was also recently appropriated from the LDWF’s Artificial Reef Fund for a commercial menhaden fishing by-catch study to measure the impact that the industry has on recreationally important fish species as well as coastal Louisiana’s ecosystem as a whole. The study is anticipated to be conducted within the next two years.

In 2020, Louisiana generated $11.90 million in recreational fishing licenses, bringing anglers in from all across the country. CSF will continue to work with in-state and national partners to help conserve recreational fisheries that are culturally and economically important to Louisiana.

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