Sunday, November 08, 2020

LWF Commission declines action on menhaden restrictions

For the second time in three months, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission opted to punt rather than deal directly with a growing conservation issue related to coastal fisheries.

At their November 5th meeting, the LWFC was to consider a motion of intent to create a exclusion zone for menhaden fishing. Pogey boats would have to fish outside one mile of the coastline, in an effort to limit the bycatch of recreational species common within one mile, and avoid user group conflicts. Louisiana is the only coastal state that does not have an exclusion zone.

Instead, the Commission voted to adopt a motion to extend a “gentleman’s agreement” on exclusion zones within areas where shoreline recreational fishing was most common. That would basically be Grand Isle, Elmer’s Isle, and Holly Beach. Currently such an agreement exists with the town of Grand Isle. However it was pointed out in the meeting that this has been broken numerous times by certain vessels – and there are no penalties for doing so.

While supporters of the proposal brought forth evidence for an MFED, commissioners were swayed by arguments from Omega Corporation, the state’s only menhaden producer, that LDWF studies showed very little bycatch – only 2 percent of redfish and speckled trout. Even though those studies were decades old.  Basis for an MFED in other states might've helped, but that was never brought to discussion.

Back in September, the Commission voted to delay action on reducing speckled trout limits from 25 to 15, with an increase in minimum size from 12″ to 13″. Instead, they opted for yet another study on seatrout recruitment with results to be presented at the LWFC October 2021 meeting.