Louisiana’s Nearshore Reef Plan Approved

Task Force approves more than 900 sites for reefing where platforms have been or will be removed

CCA Members,
 
Please see the news release (below) from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries regarding the approval of more than 900 nearshore reefing sites off the Louisiana coast. These sites, identified by LDWF staff, CCA members and anglers from across the coast, are locations where platforms have been removed or are scheduled to be removed in coming years. This is a very big deal for Louisiana anglers, especially in light of the rapid rate of platform removal in recent years.
 
As is mentioned in the release, CCA, LDWF and our partners have completed 2 nearshore projects in recent months as part of the new REEF Louisiana Program. The first was the Ted Beaullieu, Sr. Reef Complex in South Marsh Island Block 233, built in the place of oil and gas platforms that were once speckled trout angler favorites before they were removed. The second, completed last week, is the Rawls Reef Complex in Vermilion Blocks 119 & 124, where recycled structures and other materials were deployed in the footprints of removed platforms. The Beaullieu and Rawls Complexes were both completed in locations that had been previously approved for nearshore reefing. The approval of these 900+ new sites means that projects like these can become common occurrences across the coast.
 
The recent projects were funded by CCA’s REEF Louisiana Program, conservation partners like Shell and Chevron, LDWF’s Artificial Reef Trust Fund, individual donations from CCA REEF Club members, and in-kind donations of labor and reefing materials from DLS Energy, Road Rock Recycling and a variety of local companies. Moving forward, CCA will be actively searching for materials of opportunity to be used on future projects along with additional funding sources.
 
CCA would like to thank all who were involved in making this happen, namely Governor John Bel Edwards, Secretary Jack Montoucet, Artificial Reef Coordinator Mike McDonough and the entire team at LDWF. Thanks also goes to the members of the Artificial Reef Task force for their careful consideration and approval of this critical plan. CCA also appreciates leaders from the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force, and other important stakeholders, who provided guidance as the plan was being developed. Finally, a special thanks to all of the CCA volunteers and REEF Club members who have been critical throughout this process.
 
With the approval of the new sites, CCA expects to announce plans for numerous nearshore reefs in 2020, including old trout hotspots like the “Green Monster” near Venice and Eugene Island Blocks 51 & 74 as well as snapper spots south of Cocodrie and Cameron. In spots where platforms have been removed, we will work to replace the habitat using materials of opportunity. Where platforms are scheduled to be removed, we will work with the site owners to preserve and enhance the existing habitat.
 
In recent years, CCA and our partners have completed 26 inshore and nearshore reef projects across Louisiana, creating hundreds of acres of critical fisheries habitat, and representing an investment of more than $11 million dollars.
 
Please see the release below, and contact Rad Trascher at CCA Louisiana for more information about CCA’s REEF Louisiana Program. He can be reached at 225-952-9200 or rad@ccalouisiana.com.

NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
October 7, 2019

LDWF Artificial Reef Program’s Master Plan Addresses Loss of Shallow-water Platforms Along Louisiana Coast
 
(October 7, 2019) –  Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Secretary Jack Montoucet have announced the LDWF’s Artificial Reef Program will help Louisiana anglers by preserving offshore fishing in the Gulf of Mexico where oil and gas platforms in less than 100 feet of water are being removed.
 
LDWF’s Artificial Reef Program (Reef Program) recently presented a master plan to the Louisiana Artificial Reef Development Council (Artificial Reef Council) that would preserve more of the platforms that remain and restore habitat that has been lost. With critical input of anglers and conservation partners, the Reef Program identified hundreds of potential artificial reef sites—both existing and lost platforms where anglers have been highly successful catching fish.
 
Platforms further offshore are prime fishing sites for red snapper, amberjack and grouper. Species such as spotted seatrout, sheepshead, and croaker are often found around platforms in shallower waters.
 
These platforms provide hard structure that is attractive to fish and otherwise not easy to find in the northern Gulf. But international law and federal regulation require their removal when production of oil and gas ends and the mineral lease expires.
 
The Reef Program accepts oil and gas platforms as artificial reefs, but it has been difficult to reef the platforms in less than 100 feet water, for technical and financial reasons.
 
The Reef Program established a quarter nautical mile development and buffer zone around each of the favorite sites to reduce potential impacts on shrimp trawling. The Reef Program staff, led by Artificial Reef Program head biologist Mike McDonough, also analyzed shrimp trawl effort data to ensure historical trawl activity within the zones was minimal.
 
The master plan and shrimp trawl analysis were presented to the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force for comments and suggestions. Suggestions were minimal and adjustments were made.
 
The potential artificial reef sites stretch from Cameron Parish to Plaquemines Parish, from three miles to 58 miles from shore, and will likely take many years to complete. However, the master plan is now in place and will serve as a guidance document for recreating and maintaining important fisheries habitat in shallow-water areas off the coast of Louisiana.
 
Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commissioner Chad Courville and Rad Trascher from the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) of Louisiana assisted in developing the plan. Their work soliciting favorite platforms from anglers helped ensure the master plan reflected angler preference while keeping impacts to other user groups at a minimum.
 
The Artificial Reef Program has already established several shallow-water reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, recently completing the South Marsh Island 233 West & East Reefs, also known as the Beaulieau Reefs, and Vermilion 119 & 124 Reefs, also known as the Rawls Reefs, in partnership with CCA Louisiana and St. Mary Parish-based DLS Energy. These reefs serve as initial steps in completing this plan with more projects to be developed in the future.