Acting on a bill passed three years ago in the state Legislature, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission took its first steps to establish and label 31 inshore and nearshore artificial reefs as Inshore Recreational Reef Sites during Thursday’s meeting in Baton Rouge.
Most of the 31 reef locations already have been constructed in joint efforts by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the Coastal Conservation Association-Louisiana, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and other partners ranging from federal and state agencies, oil and gas corporations and construction companies all working under the Louisiana Artificial Reef Fund.
While the purpose of the Notice of Intent that will be posted in the April 2015 State Register is to limit these sites to recreational fishing, the target of Act 84 of the 2012 Legislative Session also was to “... restrict all harvest of oysters thereon,” thereby preserving the millions of cubic yards of hard materials deposited as these sites for attracting fish species.
Other major agenda items covered Thursday were passage of the 2015-2016 regulation covering the LDWF’s wildlife management areas, along with the 2015-2017 state resident-game hunting seasons and regulations, and approving a first-ever “request for proposals” from applicants seeking all or parts of the state-dedicated waterfowl funds, a program with a annual funding pool of more than $300,000 annually.
The reef-sites notice carries a 120-day comment period before the LWFC could take any final action on the 31 sites that stretch from Plaquemines and St. Tammany parishes on the east to Cameron and Vermilion parishes on the West. As many as 21 of the sites are located in southeastern, central and Acadiana area waters.
Other LWFC meeting action included:
Welcoming Chad Courville to the commision to replace Ann Taylor, whose six-year term ended in December. Courville. from Lafayette, is a land manager for Miami Corporation and chairs the Louisiana Alligator Advisory Council;
Approving a declaration of emergency allowing LDWF secretary Robert Barham to open or close the season on greater amberjack in state waters. The amberjack season is scheduled to close June 1 and remain closed through July 31;
Receiving a commemorative plaque from Ducks Unlimited and the American Fish and Wildlife Association for 50 years of donations to waterfowl projects and being the first state to reach $10 million in funds for waterfowl habitat;
Learning that oystermen took 223,000 sacks of seed oysters and 16,000 sacks of marketable oysters in five days of a what was to be a 15-day season on public oyster grounds in St. Bernard Parish. State Oyster Study leader Patrick Banks said the LDWF took action to close the season early to preserve a fall season on the same grounds;
Learning that Enforcement Division agents issued 1,021 citations and 433 written warnings during March, and worked 30 poublic assistance calls;
Learning that agents handled two boating accidents involving four fatalities during March among 12 boating accidents statewide;
And, approving an Aug. 6 date for its August meeting in Baton Rouge.