H.B. 535 is not just about protecting sportfish. Pogie fishing within Louisiana’s surf zone impacts Louisiana’s seabirds like the brown pelican, black skimmers, and bald eagles. Brent Newman with Audubon Louisiana has the latest, summarized below.
Each spring and summer, the menhaden industry uses giant nets over 100 feet long to pull about a billion pounds of menhaden in Louisiana, often within a mile of the shore. The average annual harvest of menhaden in the Gulf of Mexico is estimated at 1.1 billion pounds—that’s roughly 3 billion fish taken out of the water each year. The fish are then ground up and used for animal feed, fish oil pills, and fertilizers.
The effects of this large-scale trawling can be detrimental to the seabirds who rely on menhaden to survive and to feed their young. Sport fishers have also repeatedly sounded the alarm on this industry as the enormous nets on the menhaden boats catch and kill hundreds of thousands of large, breeding-size trout and red drum in the process.
If the Senate passes this bill and the governor signs it into law, it would exclude industrial menhaden fishing vessels within a half-mile of Louisiana’s shores and provide an extra buffer area for several barrier islands. This action would align Louisiana’s commercial fisheries management with other Gulf states: Louisiana is one of only three Gulf states that allows menhaden to be fished and processed in this way, and the only state that has no catch limits or area restrictions in place.