An abandoned commercial pogie net floating in the Gulf of Mexico loaded with an estimated half a million pounds or more of dead fish has sparked the latest controversy over the lack of control of the industry and given yet another black eye to fishing near the Louisiana coast.
“Over the weekend, Coastal Conservation Association received numerous reports and photos of what appeared to be an abandoned menhaden net just south of Holly Beach in Cameron Parish,” said David Cresson, the group’s Executive Director. “In the photos we received, the net looks full of pogies and other species. We also received numerous reports of dead redfish, drum and other species found in the water and on the beaches.”
More than they could lift
CCA reported the incident to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries soon after receiving the photos.
“Today (Sept. 14) at LDWF’s Finfish Task Force Meeting, a task force member asked if there was any information available about the incident, Cresson continued. “A representative of Omega Protein was on hand, and reported to the taskforce that the net is owned by Omega. According to the representative, the net contained about 900,000 pogies weighing an estimated 500,000 lbs.
“There was no estimate given on bycatch (other fish accidentally trapped in the nets). The representative reported that the net was cut loose after the crew realized it contained more fish than they could safely harvest.”
Those who witnessed the abandoned net full of dead fish speculated that the water where the net was originally was too shallow for the big pogie boat to reach it without running aground. A concern of conservation-minded fishermen is that if these kinds of things are happening with the spotlight on the industry, what has been going on when when nobody is looking. Cresson said it is important to document events such as these.
“Please continue sending your photos and videos when you see these activities near Louisiana’s shorelines and beaches, or when you encounter fish kills. Send them to us and send them to your state senator and representatives,” he said. “We must continue to shine a light on this industry and the damage being caused to our fisheries, our coastal wildlife, and our critical habitats.”
Cresson wasn’t the only one that was shocked and angry over this latest example of undocumented waste.
“It’s inexcusable to see this kind of waste off Louisiana’s coast,” said Chris Macaluso, Marine Fisheries Director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and a regular contributor to Louisiana Sportsman. “Making it more troubling is that the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries thinks the half a million pounds of dead fish in this abandoned net is insignificant. Just like they believe the 10,000 or more breeding sized redfish the department estimates the pogie boats kill every year is insignificant.
“These are not insignificant incidents. Louisiana is the only state that does not have a catch limit or a meaningful restriction on where these boats can operate. These companies need to be held accountable for the damages they are doing to our fisheries. The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission and some of our elected officials must take seriously the concerns of the conservation-minded sportsmen of this state and enact some meaningful restrictions on the two foreign owned companies that are mining nearly one billion pounds of vital forage from our waters every year and damaging our shallow habitats.
“Enough is enough,” Macaluso concluded. “Recreational anglers are disgusted by this activity and they have every right to be.”
Louisiana is the most lightly-regulated state in the nation when it comes to pogie harvests and both legislative efforts and efforts to get the LWFC to change have been futile to date.
The Sportsman asked LDWF for a comment on Wednesday and they responded that they had been investigating the matter and would have a comment Thursday, but none had been received by publication.
Subscribe now, get unlimited access for $19.99 per year
Become the most informed Sportsman you know, with a membership to the Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and LouisianaSportsman.com.