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WLF Commission to consider one-quarter mile Menhaden buffer zone

On Thursday, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission will consider a proposal to create a one-quarter mile buffer zone off Louisiana’s coast where Menhaden Reduction Harvest would be restricted. CCA Louisiana and our conservation partners submitted the following comments regarding that proposal, expressing our strong opposition.  A one-quarter mile buffer is totally inadequate, and has no support from the recreational fishing, conservation or scientific communities.  

CCA members and concerned citizens are invited to submit your own comments to the WLF Commission at comments@wlf.la.gov.  Indicate agenda Item #17

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October 6, 2021

Honorable Chairwoman Smitko
Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission
Joe L. Herring Room
2000 Quail Drive
Baton Rouge, LA 70808

Dear Chairwoman Smitko and Members of the Commission:

We write to express our strong opposition to Agenda Item 17 in your upcoming Commission meeting, a proposal to establish a quarter-mile buffer zone for industrial menhaden harvesting along Louisiana’s coast. Our coalition believes that a quarter-mile buffer zone is insufficient to adequately protect Louisiana’s wildlife and other fish resources from the substantial damage inflicted to the local ecosystem by industrial menhaden or “pogie” harvesting.

We appreciate that the Commission has acknowledged the damage pogie harvesting causes along our coast and appears to recognize that a buffer is appropriate to mitigate the impacts to our coastal fisheries and marine ecosystems as demonstrated by our neighboring states. However, instituting a quarter-mile buffer is grossly inadequate.

A quarter-mile restriction on pogie harvesting ignores the complexities of the sensitive ecosystem throughout Louisiana’s surf zone, likely exacerbated by the recent storm, where waters are less than 12 feet deep. Industrial pogie boats, when fully loaded, draft more than 12 feet, churning up the seafloor and damaging the surf zone. Pogie harvesting also produces significant bycatch of some of Louisiana’s most iconic fish species. Further, a quarter-mile buffer zone does not consider the damage that removing a substantial volume of pogies from Gulf waters has on water quality and species dependent on menhaden as forage.

The state legislature has recently appropriated funding to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to conduct a Louisiana bycatch analysis and begin the development of enhanced management strategies. We believe this is a key step in developing a comprehensive and holistic ecosystem-based fisheries management approach for menhaden, one that considers all aspects of the issues created by this fishery. Such studies and management practices must be well-designed by independent scientists and effectively implemented by fisheries professionals if they are to yield the insightful management recommendations this fishery and ecosystem desperately need.

The organizations signed onto this letter, their supporters, and over 68 Louisiana House of Representatives members expressed their desire to see a buffer greater than you all are considering for the conservation of numerous species of fish and wildlife. There is already mounting evidence of the negative impacts that industrial menhaden harvesting has throughout Louisiana’s surf zone, extending a full mile off our coast and possibly beyond.

We ask the Commission to reject the quarter-mile buffer zone proposal. Instead, we request that you continue working with our organizations to enact a more deliberate, thoughtful and comprehensive solution that addresses all the impacts of pogie harvesting throughout our surf zone and Louisiana waters so we can protect the vital marine life and ecosystems that make Louisiana a sportsman’s paradise.

Sincerely,

Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana
Louisiana Charter Boat Association
Audubon Delta
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
American Sportfishing Association
International Game Fish Association
Bonefish & Tarpon Trust
Menhaden Defenders
The Angler Action Foundation