The Louisiana Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) reports that a massive net full of nearly one million menhaden – plus by-catch species such as red drum – was abandoned and photographed in shallow Louisiana waters because the heavy haul of fish couldn’t be lifted onto the net boat mothership.
“CCA received numerous reports and photos of what appeared to be an abandoned menhaden net just south of Holly Beach in Cameron Parish,” CCA Louisiana Executive Director David Cresson told Louisiana Sportsman. “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.”
Cresson said that at a state-fisheries “Finfish Task Force” meeting, a representative of Omega Protein (a commercial fishing operator) said the net with the dead fish was owned by Omega.
“According to the representative, the net contained about 900,000 pogies weighing an estimated 500,000 pounds,” said Cresson. “There was no estimate of 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.”
Louisiana Sportsman reported that those who saw the net full of dead fish believed the water where the netting occurred was too shallow for the netter mothership to reach the haul without running aground. So the net was cut loose with the dead baitfish and by-catch species wasted.
Commercial net fishing for menhaden has been controversial in recent years because of the huge take of the important baitfish made by commercial fishermen. Many tons of pogies are collected by the commercial industry for use in paint, cosmetics and many other products.
But menhaden also are a vital baitfish for important coastal gamefish species from tarpon and snook to redfish, flounder, king and Spanish mackerel, cobia, seatrout, jacks and many other species.
Take away abundant bait, and gamefish species will be impacted, say recreational anglers concerned about the seemingly endless assault on massive menhaden schools, especially in the Louisiana coastal region and also in Chesapeake Bay.
“It’s inexcusable to see this kind of waste off Louisiana’s coast,” Marine Fisheries Director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Chris Macaluso told Louisiana Sportsman. “Making it more troubling is that the (Louisiana) Department of Wildlife and Fisheries thinks 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.
“Enough is enough. Recreational anglers are disgusted by this activity and they have every right to be.”