In the wake of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ move to axe the popular TAG Louisiana program, the executive director of Coastal Conservation Association - Louisiana sent out a strong email Wednesday critical of the decision, hinting the move was a political one to punish CCA.
“While we are not totally shocked by the development, we are somewhat surprised since we have been working with LDWF staff on 2017 event plans over the past couple of weeks, and even ordered a shipment of new tagging tools three weeks ago at LDWF’s request,” David Cresson wrote.
“One-hundred-thousand fish tagged in five years. Thousands of recapture reports. An army of volunteer taggers ready and willing to do more. This Department says the data is useless. Huh?
“Scientists across the country run very successful tagging programs with a fraction of the data that TAG Louisiana volunteer taggers have provided. Most of them would be thrilled to work with a robust body of data like the one now available through TAG Louisiana. The data is only useless if you choose not to use it.”
Meanwhile, on the same day nola.com reported the TAG program would begin scaling back as early as January 2017 because it wasn’t delivering useful information to agency biologists, an online petition started circulating calling for the resignation of embattled LDWF Secretary Charlie Melancon.
On the website iPetitions, more than 950 people had signed within about 24 hours, with a stated goal of getting 10,000 signatures.
Part of the text on the resignation petition’s home page reads:
“He is running the department into the ground. In a time when our wetlands are disappearing and our fishery diminishing, we need a Secretary who will stand up for conservation and promoting recreational fishing, not tear it down. If we don't promote a love for the outdoors, who will be there to see coastal restoration through in the next generation?
“Our fisheries department was once revered as the best in the nation and many of its programs have been copied by neighboring states due to their success, but Charlie Melancon’s term as Secretary is rolling the progress backwards.”
CCA, which advocates on behalf of recreational fishermen, and Melancon have continuously butted heads since he started in the position last January after being appointed by Gov. John Bel Edwards.
In the last 11 months, the department has come out against a Congressional bill that would turn over the red snapper fishery to the individual states, shut down the Louisiana Saltwater Series redfish tourney circuit, stopped a telemetry speckled trout program in Lake Pontchartrain and now is shutting down the TAG Louisiana program.
According to nola.com, the TAG Louisiana program costs $680,000 annually, but 75 percent of that is covered by federal grants, including $141,000 contributed annually by CCA in in-kind matching funds.
“Clearly, this is about more than science,” Cresson wrote in his email. “While we have done everything we can over the past 11 months to be a partner and a resource to this administration at LDWF, they have done everything they can to shut us out.”