The Bonnet Carré Spillway opened Friday for a historic second time this year, while the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) continued its biological monitoring of fish and wildlife resources related to the first spillway opening.
More specifically, the LDWF is cooperatively monitoring the effects of freshwater inputs from the spillway openings on Louisiana’s oyster, shrimp, and crab resources, as well as potential impacts on federally managed marine mammal and sea turtle populations.
LDWF is part of a multi-agency group monitoring the effects of freshwater introduction resulting from the first, and now second, opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the lead agency charged with monitoring marine mammals and sea turtles and LDWF has assisted NOAA in this regard.
Other entities monitoring the impacts of the spillway opening include the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Geological Survey, Louisiana State University, and National Wildlife Federation.
“LDWF biologists will continue to monitor our fish and wildlife resources, and extend our support efforts to NOAA as long as is needed,” said Randy Myers, LDWF Assistant Secretary for Wildlife.
Since Jan. 1 2019, there has been an increase in sea turtle and marine mammal strandings along the coast of Louisiana. The LDWF has been in constant coordination with NOAA and other partners, assessing the situation and organizing response efforts.
LDWF has been responding to strandings, performing necropsies on sea turtle and marine mammal carcasses, reporting stranding response and data collection via photo documentation and stranding response forms, and uploading all necessary information into NOAA’s online database. LDWF protocols and standard operating procedures have occurred during this time and will continue as the event continues to unfold.
The true impact of the spillway opening on the local fish and wildlife populations won’t be known for months as data continues to be collected and analyzed by both state and federal agencies.
Since the first 43-day opening of the spillway ended, LDWF has been studying effects of low salinity on the oyster population in Mississippi Sound. Monitoring will continue as long as salinities remain below thresholds that threaten oyster survival.
“It is likely some oyster beds will see an impact, especially if salinities remain low and water temperatures rise,” said Patrick Banks, Assistant Secretary for Fisheries, “but we are confident that the areas will be able to rebound just as Mother Nature intended.”