Southeast
Chris Granger / NOLA.com

LA - Pogie ships would be forced farther from Louisiana coastline under bill OK'd by House

After decades under lax regulation, the Louisiana House voted 67-28 Wednesday to require the state's largest commercial fishery to cast its nets farther from the state's fragile coastline.

After decades under lax regulation, the Louisiana House voted 67-28 Wednesday to require the state's largest commercial fishery to cast its nets farther from the state's fragile coastline.

Louisiana waters supplied 40% of the menhaden caught in 2019 across the United States, a catch worth tens of millions of dollars, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data. In a given year, the industry's 180-foot-long vessels and 1,500-foot-long nets ensnare 700 million to 1 billion pounds of the tiny, dart-like silver fish off the state's shores.  

But if House Bill 535 becomes law, Louisiana would forbid menhaden trawling within a half mile of shore, to reduce coastal erosion and limit damage to shallow nurseries of popular game fish species such as redfish and speckled trout. The bill now goes to the Senate. (Here's how the House voted.)

Menhaden, also known as pogies or shad, are a keystone species in marine ecosystems, providing food for a wide range of larger fish and birds. When caught commercially, the oil-rich fish is ground up into animal feed, health supplements and fertilizers.

The effort to create an exclusion zone for menhaden boats off Louisiana's coast has gained steam over the past two years, as complaints from recreational fishers have grown. Bloated, floating bodies of dead reds and specks left behind by commercial fishing vessels seem to have increased in volume and proximity to shore in recent years, exclusion zone advocates Chris Macaluso and David Cresson said.

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