Leading up to the Governor’s election, CCA Louisiana sent a list of questions to the major candidates. These are critical issues to our members and to anglers in Louisiana. Each question asked for a Yes or No response, with an opportunity for candidates to include additional comments. We included some brief background on each issue.
Here are the responses to question #1 regarding the menhaden harvest in Louisiana. The answers are shown exactly as they were submitted to CCA and are listed in the order they were received from the candidates.
TOPIC 1: MENHADEN / POGIES
From April to November each year, two menhaden reduction harvest companies (Daybrook Fisheries and Omega Protein) remove nearly 1 billion pounds of menhaden (pogies) from Louisiana’s shorelines. While doing so, they kill millions of pounds of bycatch, consisting of species like shrimp, croakers, crabs, redfish, speckled trout and many more. Menhaden ships from Louisiana and Mississippi travel to large schools of menhaden, then deploy two smaller seine boats which encircle the schools with enormous nets. The seine net is “pursed” tight while the menhaden ship pulls alongside the net boats, where it sucks the harvest onboard using a huge vacuum hose. This operation occurs more than 10,000 times each year off Louisiana’s coast, often in waters less than 10 feet deep, near sensitive oil and gas infrastructure.
Menhaden is a critical food source for a wide variety of fish, bird and wildlife species on Louisiana’s coast. Reduction harvest operations often happen at the same time and at the same place where iconic species like redfish and speckled trout spawn. Meanwhile, Louisiana fisheries managers are currently considering reduced harvest limits for recreational anglers on redfish and speckled trout. Louisiana has no menhaden harvest limit. West of the Mississippi river, Louisiana has an insufficient ¼ mile coastal buffer. East of the river, in Breton and Chandeleur Sounds, Louisiana has no coastal buffer. By comparison, Florida doesn’t allow seine fishing in state waters. Alabama and Mississippi have 1-mile coastal buffer zones where menhaden reduction harvest is off limits. Texas has a ½ mile coastal buffer and a very low annual harvest limit.
QUESTION: As Governor, to protect our shorelines and the fish and wildlife that live there, will you support a minimum one-mile menhaden harvest buffer zone off Louisiana’s coast?
YES. I will support such a limit. I am committed to working together with all parties to implement this in such a way that will protect the coast and these critical resources, enhance the recreational experience and also secure the Louisiana jobs in this industry. By working together, we will get this done.
Stephen Waguespack (R)
I oppose wasteful fishing practices, whatever they may be. Commercial fishing operations must be conducted in a responsible and sustainable way, including the bycatch from the menhaden fishery. This will allow us to maintain Louisiana’s precious natural resources. There must be an accountable balance between commerce and conservation.
I support science-based fishery management. If science indicates that additional regulations on the menhaden fishery will materially improve the health of other species, particularly troubled species like redfish and speckled trout, then as Governor I will support those new regulations.
I would however, not support regulation that harms any commercial fishery that is not supported by science. Just as I have done in opposing unnecessary regulations that hurt our recreational fishing.
Jeff Landry (R)
YES. Past pogie catch debates have centered on job losses for the plants in Abbeville and Empire, versus our other recreational and commercial fishing industry needs. My approach is a little different: in the same way that we must understand the importance of the Empire plant in the context of losses of other oil and gas jobs in Plaquemines, so, too, we must understand menhaden reliance in the context of other new opportunities for economic development along our working coast. These new opportunities are creating new pathways for coastal workers to access new jobs, skills and economic potential in emerging industries, while decreasing reliance on aging facilities that may run counter to other conservation and clean water efforts.
I support a one-mile menhaden harvest buffer zone, and would like to look at a range of options and possibilities, including those from HB 576 of the last legislative session, which implemented a seasonal buffer.
More importantly, I think a measured and balanced approach to management connects coastal workers with new opportunities emerging in the renewable energy space, helps residents access new skills necessary for our future, and works with existing industries to improve practices that can sustain our working coast.
Shawn Wilson (D)
YES. As Governor, I will make sure we protect our way of life in the Sportsmen’s Paradise. Additionally, we will look at deregulation to create a more free environment for our recreational fishing community. It is important that CCA and community leaders have a seat at the table when looking at LDWF rules and regulations that can be opened to benefit all sportsmen.
John Schroder (R)
YES. I would support the 1-mile buffer zone in order to protect other species close to shore from becoming bycatch during menhaden fishing.
Richard Nelson (R)
YES. I have always been a staunch supporter of recreational coastal fishing, and I firmly believe in the need to protect our shorelines and the precious fish and wildlife that call them home.
The establishment of a menhaden harvest buffer zone is an essential step in safeguarding the delicate balance of our coastal ecosystem. Menhaden play a vital role in the food chain, serving as a primary food source for larger marine species like gamefish, birds, and marine mammals. By ensuring a buffer zone, we can protect the menhaden population, allowing them to thrive and sustain the diverse marine life that depends on them. Not only will a one-mile buffer zone protect the menhaden population, but it will also benefit recreational coastal fishing enthusiasts. These buffer zones provide a safe haven for fish to breed and grow, leading to healthier populations and more abundant fishing opportunities. I firmly believe that protecting our natural resources should be a top priority for any responsible leader. By supporting this initiative, we are demonstrating our commitment to preserving the ecological integrity of our coastlines for the benefit of both current and future generations.
I have supported legislation in the past to have a menhaden buffer zone and will continue to support these efforts as Governor.
Sharon Hewitt (R)
Hunter Lundy (I)