Joe Orgeron’s HB 576 seeks buffer zones and catch limits in Louisiana waters
As Louisiana anglers face more stringent regulations on redfish, speckled trout and other species, industrial menhaden (pogies) reduction boats from Louisiana and Mississippi begin their 2023 season. Over the next seven months they will take nearly a billion pounds of critical forage and millions of pounds of bycatch from Louisiana’s coast. Pogies are an important forage species for trout, reds, coastal birds and other wildlife.
Two companies, Daybrook Fisheries and Omega Protein, are the only menhaden reduction harvesters in the Gulf. Daybrook runs boats out of their facility in Empire, Louisiana. Omega Protein operates from their location in Moss Point, MS and from their plant in Abbeville.
This fleet of about 30 ships and 60 seine boats, including those from Mississippi, catch the vast majority of their billion pound annual catch from Louisiana state waters. Louisiana has no catch limit, and a laughable ¼ mile buffer zone west of the Mississippi River. East of the Mississippi River, there is NO BUFFER, leaving the shorelines of Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parishes completely vulnerable to this damaging style of industrial harvest.
By comparison, Texas has a ½ mile buffer and a very restrictive catch limit. Mississippi and Alabama don’t allow harvest within one mile. Florida does not allow purse seine fishing in their state waters. As a result, nearly the entire gulf harvest comes from the Louisiana coast.
In fact, Louisiana’s rules are so liberal, that Omega Protein admitted to cutting loose an entire net containing nearly 1 million pogies (a half-million pounds) and an unknown amount of bycatch off the coast of Cameron Parish in September 2022. It is our understanding that the giant net was never recovered, and likely continues to damage area fisheries. Now, more than 6 months later, it seems there have yet to be any fines levied or retribution paid by the company.
In 2021, Rep. Joe Orgeron ran legislation to create a reasonable ½ mile buffer off Louisiana’s coast. In 2022, Orgeron, along with a bi-partisan group of 13 co-authors, ran legislation to establish a moderate catch limit in state waters. Neither bill would have restricted the fleet’s overall harvest or cost the fleet any jobs. Both bills had strong support in the House of Representatives, but ran into road blocks in the Senate.
Now in 2023, Rep. Orgeron has introduced HB 576, which will establish a state waters catch limit AND will establish a coastwide buffer zone of ½ mile. That buffer zone would be pushed to 1 mile from August 1 to October 31 to provide protection for spawning redfish. To see the entire text of HB 576 click here.
CCA Louisiana and our partners strongly support Rep. Orgeron and House Bill 576. The bill is not scheduled yet, but is likely to be considered by the House Natural Resources Committee in the coming weeks. We will keep our members posted as the session progresses.
HOW CAN YOU HELP? First, let your State Representative or Senator know that you support Joe Orgeron’s HB 576, to create reasonable catch limits and buffers for pogie harvest in Louisiana water. Also, please continue sending your photos and videos when you see these activities near Louisiana’s shorelines and beaches, or when you encounter fish kills. Send them to us (firstname.lastname@example.org), and send them to your State Senator and Representatives. We must continue to shine a light on this industry and the damage being caused to our fisheries, our coastal wildlife, and our critical habitats. You can also call David Cresson directly at 225-588-4823 to get more involved.