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Support House Bill 535 by Representative Orgeron: Protect our Louisiana surf zone from damaging industrial pogie harvest

Recreational fishing in Louisiana is a multi-billion dollar industry, over $3 billion to be exact. We support thousands of businesses, nearly 24,000 jobs across Louisiana, and bring visitors to our great state from around the world. More importantly, fishing is a staple of our way of life, and an undeniable cornerstone of the Louisiana experience. Our rich estuaries provide one of the world’s greatest recreational fishing destinations. Representative Joe Orgeron from Golden Meadow has introduced legislation, H.B. 535, to help protect our favorite Louisiana pastime and our coast for years to come. 

H.B. 535 will provide much needed protection from industrial menhaden fishing for our surf zone, the sensitive, shallow waters along our shorelines, where many of our favorite fish species and iconic Louisiana wildlife spawn, nest, and feed. The bill creates a 1/2 mile buffer across the entire coast, with special 1 mile buffer zones in specific areas, and a 3 mile buffer zone off of Grand Isle. Notably, this bill will allow menhaden operators to continue to harvest at their current levels, protecting all jobs supported by both our commercial and recreational fisheries.

Please submit your comments of support to the House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment by using the link below. Please use the subject: I Support H.B. 535

A reason why our estuaries are so rich is the presence of menhaden (pogies) in our waters. Menhaden are a small, pelagic fish, often referred to as “the most important fish in the sea” because of their critical role as forage to countless fish, birds and marine mammals, and because of their role as a filter feeder, improving water quality and reducing hypoxic conditions.

Industrial reduction harvest of menhaden is either prohibited or greatly regulated in all but three U.S. states. But here in Louisiana, two companies take about 1 billion pounds of menhaden (about 3 billion fish) annually from our nearshore waters with virtually no restrictions. Louisiana is the only Gulf state with no geographic buffer zones on menhaden harvest, allowing these companies to pull hundreds of millions of pounds from inside of 1/2 mile of our beaches, shorelines and barrier islands, in very shallow waters. They do so utilizing ships that draft up to 13 feet of water, and enormous purse seine nets that encircle huge schools of fish.

According to the industry, bycatch is relatively low in comparison to other commercial fisheries, representing 2-3% of total catch. But even at 2-3%, you are still talking about 20-30 million pounds of bycatch—species like trout, redfish, drum, shrimp, mullet, croaker, catfish, and more. This does not account for fish that are left for dead in the wake of harvest ships.

Rep. Orgeron has emerged as a leader for both conservation and Louisiana’s coastal heritage, filing a bill that creates a 1/2 mile buffer across the entire coast, with special 1 mile buffers zones in specific areas, and a 3 mile buffer zone off of Grand Isle. CCA believes H.B. 535 will safeguard our fragile surf zones, and is a positive move for marine and coastal wildlife conservation alike. The bill will also help address an increasing user conflict issue in which harvest boats encroach dangerously close to much smaller recreational fishing vessels. We expect H.B. 535 will be heard by the House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment in the coming days.

CCA supports H.B. 535, and we urge you all to voice your support for Rep. Orgeron’s bill and for common-sense regulation of industrial menhaden fishing that protects jobs and preserves our heritage as The Sportsman’s Paradise. 

To learn more and to share your story about the impacts of pogie fishing to our coastal community, click HERE