Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Commission Votes to Implement Menhaden Harvest Exclusion Zone

Contact: Mark Lance, Coordinator, Southeastern States

Highlights

  • On October 7, 2021, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Commission (Commission) voted 4-3 in favor of producing a Notice of Intent (NOI) to establish a ¼-mile menhaden harvest exclusion zone from shore where the commercial take of menhaden would be prohibited.
  • Prior to the January 6, 2022, Commission meeting, CSF, alongside numerous other conservation organizations and recreational anglers, submitted comments in favor of amending the proposed ¼ buffer to a ½ mile buffer.
  • At the Commission’s meeting on January 6, 2022, the Commission voted unanimously to amend the Notice of Intent to establish the ¼ buffer by excluding Breton and Chandeleur Sounds.

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 harvest exclusion zone 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, Louisiana Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Representative Joseph Orgeron introduced House Bill 535 that would have established a ½ mile commercial menhaden harvest exclusion zone, which was seen as a compromise between the recreational fishing community’s wish of a full 1-mile buffer and the commercial menhaden industry’s stance of settling for a ¼ mile exclusion zone. House Bill 535 ultimately died in conference during the 2021 legislative session.

Unlike neighboring Gulf Coast states and before the Commission’s vote, Louisiana did not have any geographic zones where the commercial taking of menhaden would be prohibited aside from handshake agreements between the industry and the recreational fishermen.

The passage of a ¼-mile exclusion zone can be seen as a step in the right direction as it does provide some protection for Louisiana’s fragile coastlines and recreational fishing community, yet there remains concern that 1/4 mile will be insufficient to adequately limit the impacts from nearshore commercial menhaden fishing operations.

For more information on the LDWF Commission’s decision to establish the menhaden harvest exclusion zone, please click here. There is a 60-day public comment period before the Commission votes to certify their January 6 vote. 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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