Louisiana Eyes Changes for the Menhaden Purse Seine Fishery

Photo: Benny Blanco and Kyle Schaefer with a LA Red


The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC) is working towards some positive changes for the state’s menhaden purse seine fishery. A Notice of Intent (NOI) to develop new menhaden regulations was initiated in October 2022. A NOI is the first step in the process of a change in the regulations for the state of Louisiana. More importantly, however, is what this proposed rulemaking entails—it would make the menhaden purse seine fishery more accountable.

Many of our followers know that we have been working on menhaden in the Atlantic for quite some time. We were there, as individuals, in 2012 for the first ever reductions. One of the first campaigns we undertook as an association was the adoption of Ecological Reference Points (EPRs)for menhaden management at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. This was a profound shift in menhaden management, as ERPs explicitly looked at the forage species’ critical ecosystem role, rather than managing menhaden individually. ERPs are not perfect, but this represented a huge step forward toward holistic, ecosystem-first management of the most important fish in the ocean.

Louisiana is not adopting ERPs; LWFC, however, is proposing some promising regulatory changes for the state’s purse seine fishery. In early September of 2022, a menhaden boat dumped an estimated 900,000 lbs of menhaden. The net had more menhaden than it could handle. This left a huge amount of dead fish rotting in the water and a 1,500 foot purse seine that was never recovered. We are all too familiar with these events along the Atlantic coast and in the Chesapeake Bay.

Louisiana has developed new rules to make these corporations financially responsible for damage to the resource. The breakdown of the changes is simple:

  • If a net breaks or fish are dumped, the LDWF Enforcement Division of Louisiana must be notified within two hours.
  • Every effort must be made to recover the fish.
  • The net must be removed within 48 hours.
  • Finally, these changes define that a violation of these rules is considered a waste of the resource. That constitutes a fine as well as restitution for the fish and bycatch. How much is one adult redfish worth? We are about to find out! And, if the net is not removed, it will be considered a commercial littering violation with an accompanying fine.

The potential action has been met with broad support from the guiding community. “As someone who makes their living on the water, it’s great to see LDWF and the LWFC making an effort to not only provide more data regarding what the impacts of menhaden fishing (and fishing methods) have on our fishery, but also hold the menhaden fishery more accountable for their impact,” said full-time fishing guide, Captain Bailey Short. “The purse seine fishery down here is currently a hot button topic with many commercial and recreational anglers. In my opinion, the first step towards approaching an issue like this one is understanding everything we can about the magnitude of the impact the purse seine fishery has on our other local species (Reds and Specks). LDWF is taking a great first step into the subject with this rulemaking and holding the pogey fishery accountable when spills and accidents do happen.”

ASGA submitted a public comment supporting the proposed rule changes, and we look forward to working with the state to ensure these proposals are enacted and maybe encouraging other management entities to adopt similar regulations.

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