Fisheries Management 101 with Emily Muehlstein and Patrick Banks | Catch Curve
Fisheries management - there's a lot to think about
On this Saturday Special rebroadcast of the Catch Curve, Chef Robert Jones is joined by Emily Muehlstein, Public Information Officer for the Gulf Fisheries Management Council, and Patrick Banks, the Assistant Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, for an introductory discussion into the world of fisheries management. Unlike the management of terrestrial resources which can be more easily observed, regulating fisheries requires users to put their faith in scientifically based rules. Emily, Patrick, and Robert discuss how the sausage is made, covering everything from the goals and objectives of effective fisheries management to enforcement and compliance.
Robert Jones 0:04
Welcome to the catch curve on the American shoreline Podcast Network. We appreciate you joining us today for what is going to be a great show. We've got two special guests who are going to talk to us about the one on ones a fishery management, some of the science and decision making process that goes into managing fisheries in both state and federal waters. And of course, the impact that that has on coastal communities that use that resource. Let me apologize in advance. Because I'm a newbie with the equipment, you'll notice that some of my audio is a little bit low, but you should be able to hear our guests loud and clear. And that is what is most important, and I promise to do better in the future. Today we have with us Emily Muehlstein, who is the Public Information Officer for the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, also known and short as the Gulf Council. And we'll talk to you a lot about that decision making body during the course of the show. And also joined by Patrick Banks, who is the Assistant Secretary of Fisheries for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Let's take a second for each of you to introduce yourself, little bit about your background and how you've arrived at these unique and interesting jobs. Patrick, why don't you lead us off?
Patrick Banks 1:17
I'm a country boy from South Georgia and love the coast of Georgia love the marsh, love to fish and decided to go to graduate school at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and went there and completed my studies and then went to work for the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and was the statewide Western biologist for about 15 years before moving up into administration and eventually into the Assistant Secretary position at the agency.
Robert Jones 1:49
Great. Thanks, Emily, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself.
Emily Muehlstein 1:52
Interestingly, my history is not that much different than Patrick's except it wasn't South Georgia, it was Chicago. And growing up, I always came to Florida to fish with my grandparents. And so I went to school at the University of South Florida. And I studied biology and then got my masters in science education, and ended up finding a job where I got to talk and think and do fish all day long.
Robert Jones 2:17
Great. I appreciate both of you being here. Today, we're going to just kind of a free flowing conversation about fisheries management. I think Emily would be great if you could start off by telling us a little bit about the Gulf Council and what that body does.
Emily Muehlstein 2:30
Sure, absolutely. So the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council actually operates kind of as an advisory group to NOAA Fisheries, who is responsible for doing the science and implementing the laws that govern our fisheries. And so the Gulf Council is actually a group of each of the state directors for the marine resource division from the state and a number of different fisheries stakeholders. So we have a variety of folks who represent the different interests in our fisheries, our commercial fisheries, or recreational fisheries are for higher fisheries. And we also have some scientists and they all work together to make management recommendations on how we should best manage our fisheries for the health of both the fish stocks and for the coastal communities that rely on those fish stocks.
Robert Jones 3:23
Patrick, you're the Assistant Secretary of Fisheries at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which is a state agency. So how do you fit into the picture here as we sit at this federal meeting here in Orange Beach, Alabama?
Patrick Banks 3:33
That's a good question. Rob. And Emily described it perfectly. There are five seats on the Gulf council that are reserved for each of the five states within the Gulf, the head fishery scientists from each of those states. So I sit there as a representative for Louisiana. And so within Louisiana, my agency, led by our governor is responsible for any kind of involvement in federal fisheries management. For state fisheries management. We have a commission in Louisiana, this that sets the rules and regulations for state managed species, but on the federal level, that involvement in federal fisheries management falls to our agency as well as our governor. And so I represent our state and our governor on the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council.
Emily Muehlstein 4:28
And one tiny detail if I can jump in the state governors appoint the other federal fisheries managers. So the ones that don't work for agencies, the ones that do represent our fishery, are actually selected by the governor's to sit on the council as well. So it is a very state and federal collaboration.
Robert Jones 4:50
I think that's a great point. I often to describe this process as a hybrid, because you have state governors who nominate applicants but ultimately is the US commerce. secretary who picks the person to sit on the council. So Patrick, it might be helpful if you tell our listeners, what is the bright line, what determines whether or not a fish is managed as a federal or a state fish?
Patrick Banks 5:12
Well, it really comes down mostly to the species that we manage. So, for example, the majority of the red snapper resource occurs in federal waters in those waters outside of nine miles. Whereas redfish or speckled trout, let's look at speckled trout or spotted seatrout, as we would call them in the fisheries world. The majority of those fish occur in state waters. And so for us, spotted seatrout or speckled trout as a state managed species as opposed to red snapper, which is a federally managed species.
Robert Jones 5:50
I think that's a great point, I often remind people that these these fish are moving around, and they don't necessarily adhere to arbitrary political boundaries and therefore creates a need for a complex structure. Speaking of that, Emily, I think it might be helpful if you describe to people how this council process was developed from the beginning. And for example, that this is just one of eight councils that exists in the nation to regulate our fisheries.
Emily Muehlstein 6:17
Okay, so that's a great question. So we are actually governed by Congress. And what happened was, in I believe the 70s, an act of Congress created the Regional Council system, and also took some measures to sort of really start considering our fisheries and how they need to be managed and protected. Some of those were as simple as phasing out for and fishing in our federal waters. And then some of them got a little bit more complex. And were a little bit more directed on how we were going to promote the use of our fisheries, and how we were going to ensure that our fish stocks were healthy and remained healthy so that we could continue having sustained use of those fisheries over time. So the council system was set up by Congress. And we were actually governed by the Magnuson Stevens Act, which is an act of Congress that sort of
Robert Jones 7:09
tells us gives us guidelines as to what parameters we can use to manage our fisheries. In the subsequent 43 years now, since the passage of the Magnuson Stevens act, that set up the structure, people might have forgotten that before then we actually had foreign vessels fishing in US waters, we had Russian trawlers within sight of Alaska harvesting fish. And that in and of itself, contributed to the overfishing that was occurring, and the collapse of fish stocks that we saw around the nation. And so the law and creating that 200 mile easy zone, played a big role in starting to turn that around. But the passage of the Magnuson Stevens act alone in 76, didn't get us where we needed to be, there's been several reauthorizations of the law, several iterations of it. And really, in the last 10 to 15 years have, we started to see real success in returning the stocks back to a sustainable level. And now, you know, fisheries in the US are considered to be a model around the globe. I'm curious from each of your perspective and your point of view, if you could outline some of the things, the key things, and Magnuson in its current form that you think have led to us turning those stocks around and the success that we see today?
Patrick Banks 8:29
Well, from my perspective, I would say the biggest reason why we got it right, I think is the structure of the council process. It is a sometimes a laborious process, it can take a long time to happen, but because there there are, all the voices are at the table, and we're forced to all work together to get it right. No one person can make the decision for everybody. There's a lot of accountability that that we hold on each other. And I think that when you have that many voices, who are that passionate about getting it right, I think the council process is responsible for a large part of why our fisheries and recovered. But I also think that the user groups because they're so involved in the council process. And, you know, we couldn't have done it, we could have made the regulations without the user groups mining and by and large, these user groups have bought into what we've tried to do at the Council level. Red Snapper is a prime example that the commercial industry came to the table and said, We want to help rebuild this fishery and they have taken steps to do that. And I think the recreational sector is doing the same thing at this time. And so I really believe that council processes is what is tearing all this kind of thing.
Emily Muehlstein 9:54
One of the really cool things about the council process is I truly can't think of another example. in the country, have such an open, participant driven process. And so, to Patrick's point that's been really useful for us, it also makes the process kind of slow, because we do spend a lot of time making sure that we are answering to our stakeholders needs and crafting laws that balance competing interests as much as possible. You know, if you think about it in different industries, you know, we don't, we don't have some public board that gets to decide where the highways go, or where and how oil extraction can happen. You know, that's, that's a much different process than this open public process that drives the council. And so I think that open process, coupled with some very strong federal law that aims to really rebuild our stocks and achieve the greatest yield possible, and the greatest use possible from that stock really makes our management unique and successful.
Robert Jones 11:01
I think it's a great point and, and points out how transparent and open and unique this process is, I wonder if you could lay out all of the stakeholder groups that you deal with in the process, and kind of the role that they fit in to the resource, how they're using the resource and where they fit in, maybe the supply chain.
Emily Muehlstein 11:21
Sure, so um, so we deal in the business of extracting fish from the Gulf, usually. And so typically, what that means is, we are dealing with fishermen, there are a lot of non water folks. But we are going to start by, you know, start by talking about the fishermen. So there are different ways to access the fish. There are commercial interests in the fish. So those are fishermen who are catching fish and selling them to a market. So they ultimately end up either at a grocery store, or at a restaurant on a plate of potentially somebody that isn't fishing, or somebody that didn't catch that fish themselves. Then we also deal in recreational fisheries. And there's two components of recreational fishing, there are the recreational fishermen who own their own boats, and we classify those as the private recreational anglers. But then there's also a group of anglers who allow access to those fish. And so those are our charter for hire. So that's a charter boat or a head boat boat. So if you were to go somewhere and pay somebody to take you fishing, there's that part of the recreational fishing sector as well. Now, as I mentioned, there's folks that aren't actual fishermen, there are some very strong environmental interests that are that are participating in our process. And there's also just sort of general citizens and scientists who are interested in in the health of our ecosystems and our coastal communities.
Robert Jones 12:43
wanted to come back to a point that we've touched on briefly before, and that is, how the Magnuson Stevens act. And the newest version of it is based on science and data in determining annual catch limits so that we land at that sweet spot of not extracting fish at a faster rate than they can replicate themselves. Patrick, you are a scientist, you come from a strong background, I'm wondering if you could expand on that for the audience and give them a sense of how catch rates are set, and how science plays into your job on a daily basis.
Patrick Banks 13:18
And you touched on what you just what you just said we the basic idea behind fisheries management is that Mother Nature produces fish, she also kills fish. So fish are produced fish died naturally. But if that stock is, is increasing, even beyond the amount of fish that are dying naturally, well, that's extra fish that that can be extracted from the resources. So that's what we try to do is, is allow that excess fish to be taken in some fashion within like family say, whether commercial or recreational or what have you. But the science behind it can be complex, but in, in general, what a stock assessment does is explained to us how many fish are being produced, how many fish are dying, and how many extra those extra fish we can remove without driving the overall population down. And so in a very basic sense, it's really a mathematical equation is all it is adding and subtracting. But the science behind it is built on scientific sampling by biologists like myself, or we go out and we actually take samples of the fish, but it's also driven largely by the fish that are caught or extracted by the user groups. And it's a very, very important piece of, of the equation is using the data that comes from the user groups themselves.
Robert Jones 14:53
Emily, you talked a little bit about the incredible text technical expertise that goes into making these sorts of scientific decision You know, obviously the people who sit on the council are stakeholders and don't necessarily have that kind of background. Can you talk a little bit about the governmental entity that has been set up to advise the council structure to make these sorts of decisions?
Emily Muehlstein 15:16
Sure. So we did talk a little bit about the composition of the Council. And you'll probably notice that I didn't say that a masters or PhD and fish science was, was part of the qualifications, right. And, and so what we are doing, and we recognize in the federal system is, we're asking these folks who may not have that expertise to make decisions based on some very complex science that comes out of it. And so sort of in order to insulate that, we actually, as a council have an advisory body, that's our scientific and statistical committee. And that is made up of really some of the foremost scientists in our region, then fisheries folks, and they are responsible for taking a look at the scientific evidence and making recommendations about catch levels, and harvest, and then giving those recommendations to the council. So there really is sort of an intermediary group of professional scientists who help translate the science so that the council members can make the best recommendations possible for both the fish stock and the folks that that the regulations affect.
Robert Jones 16:25
One observation that I've made, during the course of my job here is that there seems to be a higher level of trust around the science, this used to manage terrestrial resources, because those user groups can see those terrestrial resources and have a better feel for it, whereas they can't necessarily see what's under the water. So it's sort of out of sight out of mind. And there seems to be a lack of trust for the science behind determining how many fish are in the water, how fast they're replicating. And I'm wondering if either of you have faced that sort of trust gap? And if you felt that as well,
Patrick Banks 17:03
I certainly, you know, we do have a much longer history of wildlife management than we have with fisheries management. So that's part of it as well. People have been used to it, but but you're right, people see the wildlife a lot easier than they see the fish. And so to try to estimate the population of a fish or a species that you can't see, is very difficult. And it's very difficult for people to understand how you could do that. And so I find that that's been the biggest disconnect, in the job that I'm in is trying to explain how we can possibly count the fish when, when nobody can really see them. And so it does lead to a level of distrust, especially when somebody sees a lot of fish at their favorite fishing location. But if you look at it as an entire population across the Gulf, that species may not be doing so well, locally at that particular fishing location, that population may be or that segment of population may be doing really, really well. So to a fisherman, who's hearing all this, this particular species is in trouble. And he doesn't believe it, because he's catching a lot of fish at his particular fishing location that that is hard for folks to understand. It's like counting deer at the deer feeder. That's exactly right. That's exactly that's exactly right.
Emily Muehlstein 18:32
You know, I think there's also a human dimension that breeds that mistrust, too. Because if you think about hunting, you know, we only have one user group for hunters, right? There's not a lot of competing interest. And so, you know, hunters are all doing that as a recreation, there's no commercial harvest. And I do think it the council process, because we sort of are adding different types of user groups who all want the same thing, which is the ability to take the most fish, I think that causes an automatic distrust of, you know, special interest and and you know, if we're making decisions one way or another to benefit a different group. So I think in addition to the fact that the fish are under the water, and they're hard to see, I think that the complexity of our user groups actually also breeds that similar distrust.
Robert Jones 19:20
Well, I think as both of you can imagine, we've faced the same on our end as a third party stakeholder in this process, you know, as being a large environmental organization. A lot of folks both on the recreational and commercial side worry that our perspective is that no fishing should be allowed that the Gulf should be in large aquarium, and that's not the case. We want to see a fair and balanced process where everybody gets the most sustainable access possible. Emily, you know, as the face of the Gulf Council, I'm sure that most of the phone calls that you're getting are not thanking you for the great work you're doing. You probably get mostly calls from an angry kid. Did you once or folks who don't have the correct information? And I think it'd be helpful to hear from you how you deal with that, and how you go about the process of educating stakeholders and making sure they've got the right information they need to make an informed decision about how to approach this process. Yes,
Emily Muehlstein 20:19
so you're right. It's not all it's not all kudos. And, you know, people thanking me. As I mentioned, when I started the job, I was really excited because I got to talk about all things fish, what I didn't realize is that I was often in an adversarial role. I think, because we are regulatory body, one of the problems is we don't get to do some of the things that the state agencies like, like Patrick works for get to do. So we don't, we don't get to do restoration projects, and we don't get to do kids fishing clinics, and we don't really have that sort of softer, more public arm. And so you know, it is a really difficult issue, because usually, when you make a fisheries management decision, you make one stakeholder group happy. And then there's like 17, other ones that are unhappy. And so pretty much no matter what, people are always unhappy with the decision that was made. And, and that is to be expected. But that's not to say that it is something that we're pleased with. And I think that the council works very, very hard to really make those decisions that are going to benefit everybody to the highest degree possible. And unfortunately, sometimes I'm sure you've heard this colloquialism. When you compromise, nobody wins. And so again, that doesn't really breed a lot of happiness around. And so we are sort of stuck in a position where publicly we don't, we don't have a great reputation. And it's not from a lack of trying or from a lack of really being open and honest about how we're going about making the decisions. It's just that typically, we don't end on a place that that makes everybody happy.
Robert Jones 22:04
I think that's so true. I mean, sometimes the best indicator of success is that not everybody is happy, and that everyone has experienced a little bit of pain. If one person is thrilled with the result, then you may have done it wrong. But there are other indicators of success. Red Snapper would be a great example. Just 15 years ago, this was a stock that was on the verge of collapse. And we had to make some very tough decisions about catch limits, and put the commercial sector into a new system that had more accountability. And now it is rebuilding faster than anyone ever imagined it could, including the scientist, and everybody's getting to share in that success story. So, you know, I think, hopefully what people got out of that is that sometimes when you have to make tough decisions, and it hurts a little bit, there is a reward that you can see even within one generation. And red snapper would certainly be an example of that.
Emily Muehlstein 22:59
Well, and you make a good point. You know, we've talked a little bit about how a lot of our stocks are rebuilding. And what's interesting is when the council process started, we were doing everything we could to make the stocks healthier. And we've been very successful in that. But unfortunately, what that means is now there's user group conflicts, whereas when there's no fish, there's nothing to fight over. And so I've seen it even in the 10 years that I've been here is we're really as a council kind of shifting away from the fear about our fish stocks, right, because it's kind of very prescriptive as to what the council needs to do in order to rebuild a stock. And really, we're kind of starting to be in this place where we can really get creative with how we manage our user groups to enhance everybody's experience, which I think is just super exciting and fascinating.
Patrick Banks 23:48
It's a great problem to have, when you don't have fish, nothing to fight over. But now that we've got fish, at least in the red snapper example. Now everybody wants a piece of it. And so it's a very difficult situation for the council. But it's a good problem.
Robert Jones 24:04
Patrick, Emily laid out that oftentimes the Gulf councils where people send their ire for how they feel about the fish, how the fishery is being managed, and somewhat characterize that working at a state agency is easier or more fun. jokingly, obviously, but I'm curious if you would lay out for our listeners, your experience managing state fisheries and how your constituents handle you
Patrick Banks 24:27
know, we don't we don't get a lot of Thank you phone calls. But Emily is correct. We do have a little bit more latitude as the type of projects we get to do. We do do a lot of restoration, a lot of research projects, but we also set a lot of state level regulations. And of course we enforce those regulations. And so a lot of times just like at the Council level at the federal level, it's at the state level. There are a lot of phone calls, complaining about decisions that we make whether we've opened the season, too late or too early or we've closed the season too late or too early and in Though and a lot of times it has to do largely with commercial interest, because folks are making a living off of the resources. So that that's typically the, the, the more difficult phone calls that you get. Just imagine if you're you're working and trying to feed your family, and then somebody tell you you can't get away. You know, that's that's difficult. But But our our system and state fisheries is, is very similar to the council, but it's those regulations are set forth by our commission. And we have a seven member commission that that we take recommendations to, and they said, they make the decisions on those regulations. So I equate our commission to the council process. The Council, at least in the Gulf has 17 members, our commission has seven but the council and the commission, those set regulations. And a lot of times we get the phone calls for the decisions that the Commission makes, just like Emily gets the phone calls for the decisions that the council makes. So it's not all butterflies and roses. But it it is a very rewarding career. There's
Robert Jones 26:10
no doubt about it. I want to come back to a point you made earlier about as a state agency, you're not only setting the policy for managing the fishery, you're also managing the enforcement piece. It's Your Game Wardens that are out patrolling at night that are stopping boats, writing citations, encouraging compliance. Could you talk a little bit about what you might be doing differently in Louisiana on the clock, the compliance and accountability side?
Patrick Banks 26:35
Well, I'm not so sure that we do anything unique compared to other states, but our enforcement agents, a lot of times are the face of our agency that so they are enforcing the laws that we as biologists recommend to our commission. And and then they're out enforcing it, but but they they're an integral part of Fisheries Management, there is no doubt that we could not do what we do without them. And that's not to say that I hope that they go out and write a lot of citations, and they take people to jail. That's not that's not the goal of enforcement, the goal of enforcement is to is to compel people to come to comply with the regulations without without citation. And so we set the regulations, we we at least in Louisiana, we always set those regulations, in coordination with our enforcement, where we decide to put forth a recommendation or regulation. We sit with our enforcement and we go through the process of how would they enforce it? What kind of problems? Do they foresee enforcing it? How can we write the regulations such that the folks can easily comply with it? And so they're they're an integral part of the development of Fisheries regulations. And then of course, they're the face of, of compelling people to comply with those regulations. And with that those men and women are putting themselves in harm's way. Because of a unique situation,
Robert Jones 27:58
the governor asked you to step up as interim secretary for a period of time, and you had to deal firsthand with with a tough situation. Will you tell our listeners about that?
Patrick Banks 28:08
No doubt, these these men and women do in fact that their lives on the line every single day, it's an amazing job. We had a very young agent, who was on patrol in the middle of the night in North Louisiana. And it came across a very dangerous situation made a stop, did not realize the danger of the situation. And it was shot five times and was left for dead on the side of the road. That agents survive, and it's back at work today. And that did that did happen during my very brief stint as an interim secretary. And it was a very worrisome situation. We weren't sure that that he was going to make it but he fought hard and, and he's back at work. He's back in the field. He's not just sitting on a desk either. He's back at work, and it is a wonderful part of our team. So it's, it's a dangerous job. And it's a lot of times a thankless job.
Robert Jones 29:06
Well, we are so glad that he is doing well today. I do want to press you a little bit on the question about what you're doing that's unique, though, because Louisiana has made some large scale investments in a robust data collection and accountability system that really has become a national model. Could you talk a little bit about look real and how it works and how it has improved your fisheries?
Patrick Banks 29:31
Sure, look real is our is our system of counting fish that are harvested by the user groups, mainly the recreational sector. And so, one one thing about Louisiana is obviously our coastline is very marshy, not a lot of places, not a lot of ports of entry. So we're able to put a lot of effort into the few ports where folks come in with the fish. And so a prion is a As a way of counting those fish that that really puts a lot of effort on interviewing the fishermen, not only when they bring the fish in, but also after the fact, after the trip, where we do a lot of calling of fishermen as well as email fishermen to try to understand that effort. So look real is a combination of interviewing fishermen at the dock, seeing how many fish they have caught, and then on the backside calling, and contacting through email and phone calls, as many fishermen as we can to understand how many fishermen actually went fishing. And look, real Creel is a very expensive program. But our fishermen stepped up a few years ago and said, We want to have the best data collection system that we can and we will pay for it, they pay an extra amount on their license, just so that we can find this data collection system that enables us to make very quick decisions on seasons, we know how many fish are being taken within a week of them being taken, and we can track that harvest against our quota, our self imposed quota, and we're able to be very nimble, very responsive to closing the season so that we don't have to fish.
Robert Jones 31:14
Another thing that's made Louisiana unique is that you are managing to a quota set poundage of fish that you predetermine is a sustainable level to harvest, instead of setting an arbitrary season, like some other areas do, and then they don't find out if they over fished until after the fact you guys have not hesitated to monitor in near real time, and then shut the fishery down if you're close to hitting your level. Emily, I'm wondering if you could outline for us some other places in the region of the country where they're doing innovative things like that, where they're able to give more sustainable access to their fishermen as well. Sure. So
Emily Muehlstein 31:56
you know, I think one of the big sticking points right now in fisheries management, as we mentioned, part of our body of knowledge that contributes to our understanding of how healthy a fish stock is, is that harvest information. And so really, I would say in in recent years, with definitely Louisiana as part of the forefront of this, there's been sort of this wave of different agencies and actually private folks as well who are finding better ways to collect harvest data. So that it is it is a more robust piece of information that sort of leads us to a better understanding of our fish stocks. And so there are a number of self reporting apps, you know, where anglers can actually log their trips and everything that they've caught. Some of the other states, I know Alabama, and Mississippi have really started these projects that mostly focus on red snapper, but are designed to supplement the federal data program by asking their their anglers to report what they're catching. And, you know, and really, we're just, there's a couple of different private groups that are doing that same thing. And then on a federal level, we're also really in the midst of sort of drilling down with our charter for higher anglers are catching and we are starting new reporting requirements for them as well so that we can really enhance that harvest information.
Robert Jones 33:28
Well, let's switch gears to a more fun topic. And instead of talking about the policy of Fisheries Management, let's talk about fishing. Each of you are avid anglers, and hunters. Tell us a little bit about how you take advantage of the fishery in your own backyards.
Emily Muehlstein 33:45
Okay, so I live in Florida, I live in Central Florida, and I am a very avid spear fisherman. And so, you know, if I have a day free, the best thing that you could do is put me underwater. I'm not necessarily that excited about hooking line fishing, but if I could craft my perfect week, it would include diving for lobster, diving for stone crab, diving to shoot fish, and then you'd have to top that off with doing some scalping as well. So my family and I spend a lot of time harvesting our own seafood. And then of course, we you know, once you do that you have to like cooking. And so really our entire life revolves around harvesting our own seafood and turning it into delicious meals.
Patrick Banks 34:35
Not bad like it's not a bad like that's, that sounds like a wonderful life.
I'm passionate about the coast of Louisiana. I love the marsh. I love to fish in the marsh. I enjoy going offshore as well but but not nearly as much as sitting in a small boat in the marsh fishing perspective for Red Fish. That's what I really love to do. Now if you threw in a duck that morning, that's even better. And the wonderful thing about coastal Louisiana is, is you can do that certainly in during the duck season. You can even run in the morning and then fish the rest of the day and my favorite thing to do is to chase those inshore species like redfish and speckled trout.
Robert Jones 35:21
our listeners are across the nation, and they probably don't realize what an incredibly unique fisheries in Louisiana because of the composition of your coastal shelf, I've heard the craziest stories about what one person can catch in a single day. Tell us a little bit about that.
Patrick Banks 35:41
It is it is unique. It is unique because of the topography. You're right. And we have a very shallow coastal area that goes out many, many, many miles into the Gulf stays shallow for many, many miles. But it's also unique because of the Mississippi River and what the Mississippi River brings to our coast. It brings a lot of nutrients. It also produces a very large estuary, that that is not really salt water and it's not freshwater. And so in one spot in our Marsh, I've caught large mouth mass of caught redfish I've called speckled trout, sheep said blue catfish all in one spot. For the first time in my fishing career, this past year in that same spot, I caught a radiator Sunfish on a piece of dead shrimp. So it's it's quite amazing that you can catch both freshwater species or what you would think would be freshwater species with what you would normally consider saltwater species all in the same area. But but it's it's it's this incredible mix of the river water as well as our Gulf water that makes our estuary so productive. And so now if you move to the offshore species, certainly because the shelf is so it's the goes on for so many miles, you maintain that shallow mixing zone even out into the Gulf and so you can get on the edge of that mixing zone and you make can still catch some speckled trout even in 50 6070 feet of water, you go five miles to where the shelf drops off into 1000 feet of water and you can start catching tuna and grouper and things like that. So it's it's pretty amazing place to fish. There's not much else to do. Fish, if you love to fish is the best place in the world.
Robert Jones 37:36
Not to mention some of the best restaurants in the world. As a Texas boy, I think it's hilarious because there are places where I can go 30 miles offshore and still be in 100 feet of water.
Unknown Speaker 37:45
In Florida as well.
Unknown Speaker 37:46
We say it's a foot of mile.
Robert Jones 37:49
You can you can hit that drop off point and places in the side of land and be catching yellowfin tuna, which is unheard of.
Patrick Banks 37:57
Yeah, you're exactly right that it is very close to the mouth of the river. But the rest of our our coastline, the shelf. You're right at right at the mouth, it drops off very quickly.
Robert Jones 38:08
The folks listening today probably come from dozens of different professions. But the nexus point where we all intersect is the coastal communities that are impacted by the decisions that we make. I'm wondering if each of you can talk a little bit about that human dimension. And the the culture and the impact on culture involved in the decisions that you make and fishery management every day and especially about your individual communities?
Patrick Banks 38:38
Well, I'll start with that, certainly in Louisiana. Our coastal communities, they're no doubt the fabric of what makes Louisiana unique. We have communities that are so remote from larger population centers that that you know, it makes them unique and makes what they do unique and makes the food unique. It makes some of their dialect unique. But, but managing fisheries for those communities is part of what makes my job so much fun. You have communities that are 100% reliant on one particular species. And that and when that species is not managed appropriately or it has problems an entire community suffers and that's scary. And it's it's unfortunate. So you know that, that that but that's also what makes the jobs we do so important? Because there's entire communities that are reliant on what we do it in doing it right.
Robert Jones 39:50
And that's where I was really going with this is this is so much bigger than just counting fish, right. This is about the cascading effects that this science and Catch limits and access have on the decisions that people make every day whether or not they get a hotel room in Destin or Venice in order to go fishing or if they go to their favorite restaurant. And you know how much money that restaurant makes. The waitstaff, the busboys, the grocery stores, all parts of the supply chain, and the economics of this,
Emily Muehlstein 40:23
I mean, the most simple way to look at fisheries management is that it's a big driver of both food and recreation. And those two things are, to me probably the most important cultural indicators I could think of. And so you know, one of the really neat aspects of what we do is, is we get to travel the entire Gulf Coast, and, and if you can just consider how much seafood and how much, you know, the recreation of collecting that seafood just drives the culture of our Gulf Coast. And it's amazing how different it can be from state to state or you know, even just miles apart how one type of seafood will drive the way that people are, and how they celebrate their, you know, their big life milestones, or you know, just what they eat on a daily basis and how they spend their time. It is a huge economic driver, and it is also a huge driver of who we are as people, you know, through the history of time, what we need, how we eat it, and how we get it has driven who we are as people and you know, if we're hunters or gatherers, we're both and how we build our towns and how we build our cities. And so I really believe that fundamentally, that the seafood that drives our culture really defines who we are, in a lot of ways.
Robert Jones 41:50
That's a great setup for my last question today. As fishery managers, what's the big issue coming around the corner that you see that is keeping you up at night, that you're worried that we have to address in order to preserve the culture and the coastal communities that you both just eloquently described,
Patrick Banks 42:12
it's hard to pick just one. And so I'm gonna have to pick two, specifically in Louisiana, the loss of our coastal habitat is the biggest issue that we have. Our coastal erosion is a problem. But in terms of the fishery itself, I do believe that we can manage the fish, the fish, but what I see happening in fisheries is the same thing that I see or saw happening when I was a child growing up in a farming family, is the loss of the next generation of fishermen. You don't see that in recreational fisheries as much, but certainly in commercial fishers. You know, I did not follow in my father's footsteps as a farmer, even though I wanted to. And I saw that just wasn't the way to go. And I think we're seeing a lot of that, especially in commercial fisheries, and then even maybe in some for our fisheries, that the younger generation just doesn't see a future in it. And that worries me greatly. Because I think that's you start to lose the fabric of who we are, when you start losing that nature.
Emily Muehlstein 43:23
So I also am having a hard time picking just one, to echo what Patrick said, I think habitat loss or the quality of our habitat is is one of the things that that personally makes me nervous. Because that's really the bedrock of our healthy fisheries. And,
Patrick Banks 43:44
you know, the hard
Emily Muehlstein 43:44
part about that is, is habitat loss in in water quality, those are all issues that we as a council and we estate agencies can't fix alone, because they're so integrated into so many different aspects of agriculture, and even all sorts of things. And the other one, which is probably coupled with Habitat loss is really coastal population growth. And so I have seen, and I'm one of those people, as is Patrick, that that is from the Gulf Coast and thought that is the place to be and move there because we see the beauty in it. The unfortunate part is when that happens, and more and more people do it, the beauty actually starts to to dissipate a little bit. And so that's a big one for me is figuring out how we are going to manage what seems like an ever growing population of folks who want access to our resources, and then finding that balance and protecting that as well.
Robert Jones 44:46
In short, it's a finite resource. And this has been a great preview for some of the topics that we're going to dive into on future episodes like coastal erosion and climate change. I really can't thank you both enough for the time that you gave to our audience. Today I'm sharing your expertise and your fishing stories. It's been a great episode. And hopefully we can have you both back in the future.
Patrick Banks 45:07
Thank you for having me.
Emily Muehlstein 45:09
Yeah, thanks. And I just want to make sure that everybody out there listening knows that you know, we are very accessible. So if you have questions, if you want to get interested in fisheries management and and participate in the management of your fisheries, please look us up and we'll be happy to engage.
Robert Jones 45:26
You can find them at Gulf council dot o RG. That's the end of our show today. We hope you enjoyed it. This is the catch curve on the American shoreline Podcast Network. With your host Robert Jones, we'll be back soon with another episode that dives in deeper on one of the many issues that were touched on today.