Ocean Harvesters and Westbank Fishing are extremely concerned with last week’s decision by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to approve a Notice of Intent (NOI) that would impose a one-mile buffer zone for menhaden fishing along the state’s coastline and a 3-mile buffer around Cameron Parish in Southwest Louisiana.
We believe that this decision is not supported by any scientific evidence and will be economically harmful to the menhaden fishery and Louisiana’s fishing communities.
We believe Louisiana’s waters should be shared by all user groups. The new coastwide buffer zone is not necessary for menhaden management. Rather, it’s the result of a long-debated, often political, user conflict that’s already been considered and defeated by the Louisiana Legislature and this Commission. Simply put, these new buffer zones prioritize recreational anglers over commercial fishermen.
Additionally, the Commission chose to move forward without consideration of economic data. As numerous fishing captains have previously testified before the Commission, this NOI will have real and lasting economic harm and threaten the long-term viability of their operations.
Because of the harm that this action is likely to impose on the two businesses and lives of Louisiana fishermen they employ, it is imperative that the Commission to conduct a full and comprehensive review of the potentially damaging economic impact of their NOI, regardless of the time it takes to complete this review. The consequences of not understanding these lost economic opportunities are too dire.
Ocean Harvesters and Westbank Fishing are disappointed in the approval of the NOI. We believe there is a way to solve what is a very clear user conflict issue without unnecessarily prejudicing the commercial menhaden fishery.
We remain committed to continuing our work with the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, Louisiana Legislature, and other stakeholders to come up with a sensible and equitable path forward that protects Louisiana marine resources and the hard-working commercial fishery.
Ocean Harvesters is a menhaden fishing company that operates along the Atlantic coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. The company operates 29 vessels and has a long-term supply agreement with processor Omega Protein. Westbank Fishing is a Louisiana-based menhaden fishing company, operating in the Gulf of Mexico with 12 fishing vessels. It has a long-term supply contract with processor Daybrook, a subsidiary of Oceana Group.