House committee to begin formal discussion of menhaden bill

The Louisiana House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment will meet tomorrow morning (May 12) to discuss HB 535, which, if passed, would create “exclusion zones” along the Louisiana coast extending between one-half and 3 miles from land where the harvesting of menhaden, aka pogeys, by commercial fishing interests would be prohibited.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Joe Orgeron of Golden Meadow and was assigned to the committee on May 2.

The unregulated commercial harvest of menhaden has long been a simmering issue among environmental activists and recreational fisherman.

In a May 4 press release, the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana (CCA-Louisiana), backed the bill.

“HB 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,” CCA Louisiana’s press release said. “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.”

The bill would create a ½-mile buffer zone along the coast, with extended zones in key areas, including a 3-mile exclusion zone around Grand Isle, where commercial boats could not operate.

By-catch

Menhaden are a vital food source for Louisiana’s speckled trout and redfish, as well as many other species of fish, aquatic mammals and shorebirds. They are also important filter-feeders of zooplankton, which can contribute to hypoxic or “dead-zones.”

Proponents of the measure have also argued that the bill will reduce the by-catch of desirable species.

“The way pogey is fished, and its occurrence within some of the most fertile waters for a variety of fish, there is a significant by-catch resulting in harm to many of Louisiana’s favorite recreational fish — approximately 135,000 pounds of trout and redfish specifically each year — and harm to forage for many of our most iconic Louisiana birds and wildlife like brown pelicans,” CCA Louisiana said.

HB 535’s impact on commercial menhaden interests and the men and women employed by these firms is unknown. Representatives from affected businesses have not been reached to verify or dispute statements made by CCA Louisiana and other supporters of HB 535.

The Committee on Natural Resources and Environment will discuss the bill for the first time on May 12, at 9 a.m. in Committee Room 4 of the capitol building in Baton Rouge.

If you would like to stream tomorrow’s committee meeting, visit HCR4 LIVE Video (louisiana.gov).

HB 535 is available in its entirety here.

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About Will Martin 55 Articles
Will Martin is an adventure writer based in New Orleans, LA. He pens fiction and nonfiction stories at willmartin.info, and is a staff writer at Louisiana Sportsman. He can be reached at willm@lasmag.com.

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