Louisiana Legislature votes overwhelmingly against LDWF’s red snapper pilot program

Resolution urging department not move forward with study passes House 85-6, Senate 29-0

The Louisiana Legislature on Friday loudly and clearly voiced their opposition to the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries recently-announced red snapper pilot program, voting 85-6 in the House and 29-0 in the Senate in favor of a resolution requesting the study not move forward.

The Department proposed just last week in its Exempted Fishing Permit Application (EFP) that 150 randomly-selected offshore anglers have access to 25,000 pounds of Gulf red snapper in both 2018 and 2019. Participants would have to record the fish they catch and throw back on a smart phone app, and be subject to dockside checks by biologists, but could fish in federal waters whenever they wanted to, and wouldn’t be subject to a daily limit.

Patrick Banks, LDWF’s assistant secretary for fisheries, told LouisianaSportsman.com earlier this week the main goal of the EFP was to bolster data gathered by the Department in anticipation of state-management or red snapper out to 200 miles.

But the program has been highly criticized by sportsmen’s groups, who contend it’s the first step in implementing individual fishing quotas on the statewide recreational community.

The House resolution is largely symbolic and doesn’t carry the weight of law. The pilot program is slated to be discussed at next week’s Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council meeting in Naples, Fla.

Chris Macaluso, marine fisheries director for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said Friday’s vote was a clear indicator of statewide sentiment for the pilot program.

“It means that overwhelmingly state lawmakers understand that sportsmen in this state — who are very important as constituents and very important to our economy — matter,” he said. “And these moves by the Department against the sportsmen of ‘Sportsman’s Paradise’ are bad moves, according to state lawmakers.

“The Legislature sees what’s happening. They understand this is a very bad move, and that their constituents are reaching out to them to tell them to try to do whatever they can to stop this.”

House Concurrent Resolution No. 113, authored by Rep. Barry Ivey (R-Baton Rouge) and co-sponsored by 23 other representatives, clearly opposes the selection of just 150 anglers having access to 25,000 pounds of snapper out to 200 miles for the study.

The resolution urges LDWF to aggressively pursue state management “in a manner that enables all fishermen, not a select few, to enjoy the bounty of fish available to anglers in those waters.”

Macaluso said Friday’s vote mirrored what several fishing industry leaders thought of the plan.

“No matter what the Department may be asserting right now — that this recommendation came from engagement with stakeholders — that’s simply not true,” Macaluso said. “These suggestions and these ideas have been brought before Louisiana’s Charterboat Association, sportsmen and the largest sportfishing organization in this state — and all the ideas in this EFP have been universally rejected.

“And now you’ve got an overwhelming majority of legislators rejecting this as well. I think it sends a very clear message that this is a bad, bad move — and it’s not supported by Louisianans.”

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Patrick Bonin is the former editor of Louisiana Sportsman magazine and LouisianaSportsman.com.