Shocking Videos Show Dozens of Dead Bull Redfish Killed by Menhaden Boats

Menhaden harvesting has become a threat to Louisiana’s fragile coast and its valuable recreational fishing industry, says a leading environmental organization.

Dead bull redfish in Louisiana waters
Dead bull redfish is among the drifting floaters left after being discarded by menhaden netters in Louisiana coastal waters.Capt. Eric Newman

A Gulf of Mexico menhaden fishery, with large commercial receiving ships harvesting menhaden along Louisiana’s coast and marshes, increasingly threatens the state’s fragile marine ecosystem and its economy (with recreational fishing contributing $1 billion annually to Louisiana, according to National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration statistics).

That’s the essence of concerns shared with SF by Chris Macaluso, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Center for Marine Fisheries. Among those concerns — beyond the still-undetermined impact of continually removing a huge biomass of menhaden from these waters — is bycatch by the pogy boats.

“By conservative estimates, as much as 140 million pounds or more of bycatch are harvested and destroyed by these menhaden harvesters annually,” Macaluso says. That includes both vital forage species and prime game fish that support the state’s recreational-fishing industry.

“It’s disturbing — and frankly unacceptable — to see the mass killing of mature redfish in menhaden nets as they gather in spawning aggregates in the summer and fall along Louisiana’s beaches and passes,” Macaluso says.

“Seeing hundreds and sometimes thousands of large, breeding-size redfish killed in pogy nets along the beaches where they’re eating and spawning every summer and fall is gut-wrenching,” adds Macaluso, a lifelong Louisiana resident and angling enthusiast.

Pogy boat
Besides at least 140 million pounds of bycatch destroyed each year from the Gulf by menhaden fishermen, tons of environmentally critical menhaden are being removed from the Gulf, says Eric Newman.Capt. Eric Newman

This concern further came to light for Sport Fishing when Capt. Eric Newman, with Journey South Outfitters in Venice, shared with us several short video clips that he shot along the newly-restored beaches west of the Mississippi River showing dead, floating bull redfish just inside big industrial pogy netters (the largest in the Gulf, Daybrook Fisheries is owned by a South African concern, Newman points out) — at one point his small boat, just off the shore, is surrounded by nine of the huge harvesters all working and spouting black smoke, plus two spotter planes and many more smaller seine set boats.

Sport-fishing boat watching pogy boat
When pogy boats target an area, all sport-fishing boats can do is stay out of the way as huge seines are laid to pick up tons of pogies and nearly everything that swims.Benson Chiles

Newman’s dismay is clear in his comments in those videos, as he says, “This is the reality of what’s going on here... . Dead redfish as far as you can see — white bellies, all dead.”

Below are four of those videos.

Commercial Menhaden Boats are Killing Red Drum in the Gulf of Mexico

Take a look at a few of the dead redfish floating dead, thrown back by Menhaden netters.

Commercial Menhaden Boats are a Threat to Louisiana’s Billion-Dollar Recreational-Fishing Industry

Menhaden boats are killing the same bull redfish that anglers and charter operators could catch and release over and over.

More Dead Redfish Floating on the Gulf of Mexico, Discarded by Commercial Menhaden Boats

See numerous huge menhaden net boats all around and all the white bellies of dead reds they leave behind.

Commercial Menhaden Boats Ruthlessly Run Off Recreational Anglers and Damage Fragile Inshore Waters

Under new ownership by a South African company, menhaden purse seiners increasingly appropriate prime fishing grounds forcing anglers to leave.