No matter city, state or nation, there’s drama when a new administration takes governmental reins, and, whether they be small-scale tweaking or broad-range maneuvering, there’s always change.
And there’s always some finger-pointing about the discrepancies of the previous administration. In a civilized society — and we can only pray next generations of Louisianans look back and proudly say we were civilized — you hope it’s the index finger used to point.
That written, CCA’s State Convention held Friday and Saturday in Baton Rouge held the first opportunities for our newly elected governor, John Bel Edwards; lieutenant governor, Billy Nungesser; and, newly appointed Wildlife and Fisheries secretary Charlie Melancon to address the state’s largest conservation organization.
There was a lot to like in what they said, notably that these men proclaimed themselves outdoorsmen and were raised, in so many words, to appreciate the heritage and pleasures of our Sportsman’s Paradise.
Nungesser addressed the group Friday. Because he spent so much time in Plaquemines Parish dealing with hurricane damage and the aftermath of the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, it was natural he spent minutes talking about coastal restoration and the need to tweak the state’s Coastal Master Plan.
He devoted nearly as many minutes talking about plans to expand the horizons of our state’s fisheries, to make a deliberate attempt to set up channels whereby tourists and conventioneers could have access to our state’s bountiful coastal fishery — and leave even more dollars in our state. More importantly, Nungesser talked about improving access to those fisheries for us, the thousands of folks who annually buy basic and saltwater fishing licenses. Access can and should be improved. We need better roads and more modern boat-launching sites.
While Melancon followed Edwards to the rostrum Saturday morning, Melancon’s words encompassed the point in Edwards’ words about needing “balance” and “responsible stewardship” in our state’s fisheries management plans.
“The Department will continue with the efforts of the previous administration to protect states’ rights to manage their own fisheries,” Melancon said. “If we can’t accomplish our goals of equal and open access under the current regional management system, then we would look toward alternatives.”
Edwards led off the morning by talking about commercial and recreational fishing opportunities.
For anyone who’s been in this commercial versus recreational discussion for 30 years now, the words “balance” and “responsible” have been at the heart of the issue, and implies that, today, there is imbalance and irresponsibility in the way our fisheries rules and regulations have evolved in the past three decades.
There’s no reading between the lines here: Even though this administration is barely over a month into its term, and the budget is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, it’s apparent some folks need to be reminded it wasn’t the recreational side that caused problems in the 1980s with redfish, nor in the 1990s with unrestricted use of monofilament and multifilament gill nets, nor with the dearth of red snapper in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. And it wasn’t recreational fishermen who brought on severe restrictions on Gulf sturgeon, paddlefish and, as far-fetched as it sounds, choupique.
Those were “imbalances” that have been corrected by “responsible stewardship” long before most folks in state government considered running for public office.