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Menhaden—also known as pogies in the Gulf—are essential forage fish for redfish, speckled trout, and many other culturally important gamefish throughout the region. Meanwhile, the industrial menhaden reduction fishery is the largest fishery by volume in the Gulf of Mexico. Two foreign-owned companies harvest about 1.2 billion pounds of menhaden annually using purse seine nets and large ships of 160-200 feet in length. The fish are “reduced” and used for a variety of products including fish feed for foreign fish farms, livestock feed, and cosmetics.
This high volume of harvest is largely unregulated. There are no catch limits in place and observer coverage is virtually non-existent. Preliminary indications from an examination of the menhaden fishery by the University of Florida and NOAA show a significant effect on sportfish—as much as a 50-percent reduction in speckled trout and redfish biomass—from industrial menhaden harvest in the Gulf.
This is why we gathered media and conservation leaders attending ICAST to discuss improving menhaden management in the Gulf and reducing the impacts of the industrial reduction fishery.
Speakers included Dr. Aaron Adams, director of science and conservation at Bonefish and Tarpon Trust; Richard Fischer, executive director of the Louisiana Charterboat Association; Jesse Simpkins, vice president of marketing for St. Croix Rods; and Mike Waine, Atlantic fisheries policy director at the American Sportfishing Association.
An estimated 80 to 90 percent of the Gulf pogie harvest takes place off Louisiana’s coast, with roughly 20 to 30 percent of that catch occurring in the shallow surf zone near beaches and barrier islands—ecologically sensitive areas where heavy bycatch is more likely.
Up to 60 million pounds of bycatch is lost each year as a result of reduction fishing in the Gulf, including hundreds of thousands of redfish, speckled trout, jacks, mackerels, and tarpon as well as crabs, mullet, shrimp, herring, and other vital forage. A 2016 analysis of Gulf menhaden fishing bycatch on redfish conducted by NOAA reported as many as 1.1 million pounds of redfish are killed annually, including tens of thousands of brood stock fish between 10 and 35 pounds.
The Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana, the TRCP, and a host of other fisheries and wildlife conservation groups—including the National Marine Manufacturers Association, American Sportfishing Association, Audubon Louisiana, Pew, the Louisiana Charterboat Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Wild Oceans, Angler Action Network, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, International Gamefish Association, Fly Fishers International, the Billfish Foundation, and Menhaden Defenders—have formed a coalition to support conservation measures.
This includes creating a model of ecological management for Gulf menhaden fishing like what has been recently implemented by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Ecological management would take into consideration the role that pogies play as forage for sportfish, marine mammals, and birds, as well as the capacity for pogies to filter and clean water. It would also examine the impacts the reduction fishery has on habitat and require a management authority, like the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, to set and enforce catch limits.
The coalition is also pushing for a buffer zone off Louisiana’s beaches and barrier islands of at least one-half mile where reduction fishing would be prohibited. Louisiana legislator Rep. Joe Orgeron introduced a bill in April 2020 that would have created a half-mile buffer off most of Louisiana’s coast and a one-mile buffer off areas heavily used by recreational anglers. The bill passed the Louisiana House but was amended by the state Senate and ultimately failed to become law. The coalition will continue to work with the state legislature and other law and policy bodies to implement commonsense conservation measures for the Gulf menhaden fishery.
Top photo courtesy of Oceana/Carlos Suarez via Flickr.
The TRCP and the conservation community at large have been highly engaged in helping shape
efforts to further protect America’s fish and wildlife habitat, focused especially on the effort to
conserve 30 percent of the nation’s land and water by the year 2030, commonly referred to as 30×30. This is why we gathered media and conservation leaders attending ICAST to discuss 30×30’s potential impact on recreational fishing with the help of an expert panel.
Panelists included: Janet Coit, the assistant administrator for fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Marc Gorelnik, chairman of the Pacific Fishery Management Council and general counsel for the American Sportfishing Association; Chris Horton, senior director of Midwestern states and fisheries policy at the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation; and Jessica McCawley, director of the division of marine fisheries management at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
More than 40 conservation and hunting and fishing advocacy groups joined together in 2020 to
create an effort to ensure that hunters and anglers are involved partners in 30×30, that critical fish and game habitat will be prioritized, and that access for outdoor recreation will continue. Hunters and anglers have always been at the forefront of land and water conservation with more than $65 billion generated for conservation since 1939.
“We’ve always been about conservation in the hunting and fishing community,” said Horton. “We’re all in, provided that hunting and fishing are recognized as compatible uses of our resources.”
In January, President Biden issued Executive Order 14008: Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. Section 216 called for identifying steps to conserve at least 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030. Currently, it’s estimated that as much as 23 percent of the nation’s oceans and 13 percent of lands are already protected.
The recreational fishing community has worked aggressively with staff to help shape this effort and provided comments to the Department of the Interior and Department of Commerce. Past presidential administrations have created large ocean monuments that initially restricted recreational fishing. Legislation introduced in California in February 2020 initially could have made recreational fishing and other recreational activities off limits in large areas of the state. But recreational advocacy groups were able to add language that recognized the importance of access for recreational activities before the law passed in late 2020.
“Conservation is a goal, and protection is a means of achieving that goal,” said Gorelnik. “To some stakeholders protection is a goal to be reached through denial of access… There’s a place we can meet where we can have responsible access while also protecting biodiversity.”
Comments submitted to NOAA in March by a host of sportfishing and boating groups insisted that 30×30 efforts include:
This advocacy has paid off. Released May 6, the administration’s 30×30 report entitled “Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful” specifically recognizes “the contributions and stewardship traditions of America’s hunters, anglers, and fishing communities,” as well as the benefits of healthy lands and waters to jobs and the outdoor recreation economy.
“We are pleasantly surprised and cautiously optimistic that hunting and fishing will continue to be in a leadership position advancing the goals of the 30 by 30 effort,” said Chris Macaluso, TRCP’s marine fisheries director. But the work continues for conservation groups, the administration, and Congress as specific details of what protection means and how it will be achieved are developed.
Photo by RimLight Media.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife and TRCP host two days of activities and conversations to share hunting and conservation knowledge with an underrepresented demographic in the sporting community
For many sportsmen and sportswomen, hunting is a multigenerational family tradition, passed on from fathers and mothers to their children. While this is part of what makes the activity so meaningful to many of us, it also means that it can be easy to overlook the barriers to participation faced by people who did not grow up with parents who hunted. Due to the way state wildlife agencies are currently funded in part through the sale of hunting licenses and tags, it’s critical that those of us who care about conservation find ways to share the meaning and joys of this pastime with our neighbors, friends, and non-hunting family members.
Given the long-term national trend of declining participation in hunting, connecting with growing but underrepresented populations will be key to the social and political relevance of sportsmen and sportswomen. In Colorado, the Latino population is expected to grow from 20 percent to 33 percent statewide in the next 20 years, meaning that the Centennial State should be of particular interest to hunters and conservationists hoping to build relationships in the Latino community.
That’s why earlier this month Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the TRCP partnered with Calwood, a trusted outdoor education center that has historically worked closely with Latino families, to host two days of workshops for Latino families to become more familiar with hunting, conservation, and the outdoors. Calwood has an established network of families that are engaged in learning about the outdoors, and this was a great opportunity for us to connect and offer to teach them about hunting’s role in conservation.
This type of event allows people who did not inherit a hunting tradition from their parents to learn and experience what our pastime is all about—and to hopefully spark an interest in hunting among younger generations. It also provides families the opportunity to learn together in a safe, formal educational setting, with well-organized instruction.
Ten families and approximately 50 people ranging from age 7 to 60 attended this event. Families were able to enjoy a wing-shooting clinic, .22/BB gun range, archery range, simulated pheasant field hunting clinic, and an upland and waterfowl dog demonstration. There was also a candid conversation about how hunting is a conservation tool.
These discussions were very informative. Several participants expressed their appreciation for the opportunity and shared that they hoped to teach their children the benefits of spending time outdoors for physical, mental, and emotional health. Many of the families were from urban areas and discussed the importance of green spaces and trees to their neighborhoods, observing that hunting could provide them with the opportunity to reconnect with nature.
The instant feedback from participants during the event was tremendous. Several families asked for and received information about the next steps, from identifying hunter education courses to purchasing tags and participating in mentored hunts. Several also asked how they can become volunteers to assist in putting on events like this in the future for more families to participate.
While this event was geared towards the families, it was a strong reminder to everyone involved of the truly communal aspects of hunting and of the importance of sharing with future generations our traditions of respecting the land and animals that nourish us. If only a few of those who were in attendance continue on the path to becoming lifelong hunters, our community will be benefit greatly, particularly when those individuals pass along what they learn to their own friends and neighbors.
The Colorado River Basin is once again facing scary hot and dry conditions this summer. The current Drought Monitor shows most of the Western U.S. in significant drought, but the Southwest looks the worst:
For the Colorado River Basin, this year is like many since 2002—a period that scientists are now calling the Millennium Drought. About 40 million people rely on this system for drinking water, while most Americans eat vegetables produced in the region’s fields. Many of us also take joyful advantage of hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreation across the Basin’s vast public lands, including ten national parks.
For all of us, the fact that the Colorado’s large storage reservoirs are only about one-third full is cause for alarm and a reminder that the changing climate has real consequences—for tourism, outdoor recreation businesses, agriculture, and American homes. As a result of agreements reached over the course of the last 15 years, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will formally make a water shortage declaration later this year that will require substantial reductions in water deliveries, mostly in Arizona.
A new report, Ten Strategies for Climate Resilience in the Colorado River Basin, offers a set of actions that would allow those who live in or rely on the Basin to adapt, reduce pressure on water supplies, and strengthen local economies, all while building climate resilience. These actions, which range from the proven to the emerging and theoretical, would take the Basin well beyond the important water conservation and recycling measures that cities in the Basin have already initiated. And for each strategy, the report identifies potential sources of funding, although significantly more investment will be necessary.
These strategies include:
Implementation of these strategies may be challenging and will require change. For example, multiple federal agencies that usually operate in their own silos would have to work together. It will also be important to involve state, local, and tribal governments and to make clear that, when it comes to strategies that may be deployed on private lands, they are voluntary measures—not mandates. Still, taken together, these strategies may help preserve agricultural viability in the Southwest into the future.
Decision-makers will need to weigh the costs, technical feasibility, and political will for moving bold actions like these strategies forward. However, with the president and Congress considering major investments in America’s infrastructure, there can be no better time to secure financial and policy support for these measures.
But we as sportsmen and sportswomen must be engaged in this process. Our ability to advance significant improvements in the management of the Colorado River system thus far is a testament to the power of partnerships. And the hunting, fishing, and conservation community—including the nonprofits behind this report—is prepared to dig in with the Basin’s private landowners, local communities, and government officials at every level to take the next steps. Together, we must adapt the system to a changing climate and build toward long-term climate resilience, while looking out for our fish, wildlife, and economy along the way.
Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.Learn More