With the 60-day, Coastal Zone duck season opener this weekend, the hottest debate among the seven-member Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission for the past three months has been ducks.
Not this season’s ducks, but migratory waterfowl for the next three, and the next five years.
The “three-year” part came when the commission, then handling duties with six members, deadlocked over the dedication of state funds — as much as $300,000 derived from 10 percent of annual state hunting licenses fees — to send north to preserve and enhance waterfowl breeding grounds.
There had been an even split among the six members when it came to sending portions of those dedicated funds to Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl. Then Julie Hebert was named to fill the commission’s seventh seat (she replaces Ed Swindell, who resigned to take a Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council seat), and she broke the tie.
The first offering of a respective 80-20 split between DU and Delta failed by a 4-3 vote, and the motion to send all the money for the next three years passed 4-3. In the latter vote, the “ayes” came from Ronny Graham, Billy Broussard, Chad Courville and Hebert. The “nays” were Pat Manuel, Dan Davis and Bart Yakupzack.
The “five-year” part came when the commission faced changes in the waterfowl hunting zones for five seasons beginning with the 2016-2017 duck season. The biggest changes in the three-zone plan established four years ago came after pleas from rice growers on lands south of Eunice and north of La. 14. Rice farmers claimed the earlier seasons offered in the Coastal Waterfowl Zone cut hunters short of days because the farmer had not cut second-crop rice from their fields. The new boundary line for the East Zone was extended west from its line of the last four seasons (including the current season) and the new Coastal Zone boundary runs from the intersection of La. 14 and I-10 at Lake Charles along La. 14 to New Iberia, then picks up at U.S. 90 there and runs east to the Louisiana-Mississippi line.
The boundary between the West and East zones in north Louisiana was moved about 50 miles to the east to U.S. 167.
Crabs take a hit
Another revelation during Thursday’s commission meeting came when the LWFC was asked to suspend the Fisheries Forward Program for apprentice crabbers. The latest data coming from state biologists indicated blue crabs, once termed a “sustainable fishery” in the state, is now termed “overfished,” and adding more crab fishermen to the state’s commercial takers would exacerbate the problem.
Hunters take note
A malfunction in the water-control structure on the 400-acre green-tree reservoir at Dewey Wills WMA means there will not be enough water there for the Nov. 21 opening of the duck season. Repairs are underway. For updates, call Cliff Dailey (318) 487-5885.