Council passes resolution supporting strike net fisheryMar 15th, 2010 | By Frank McCormack | Category: News
Fifteen years after the Louisiana legislature banned the use of gill nets in Louisiana, the St. Bernard Parish Council, led by District E representative Fred Everhardt, unanimously passed a resolution at its March 2 meeting that seeks to establish a new strike net fishery in the state.
Everhardt said the ban, passed as a part of the Louisiana Marine Resources Conservation Act of 1995, came in response to the bad practices of a few commercial fishermen at that time.
“They banned the gill net years ago for a hand full of fishermen that would leave their nets out for days at a time,” Everhardt said.
Some fishermen would abandon their nets for a variety of reasons, including bad weather or laziness, Everhardt said. When they would return to the nets, many of the fish were already dead. That, combined with a series of freezes, dealt a blow to the finfish population, Everhardt said.
“That’s when we got the black eye,” said George Barisich, president of the United Commercial Fishermen’s Association. “The people that did it right was no problem.”
Armed with those facts, the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana, then called the Gulf Coast Conservation Association, began to lobby the state legislature, saying a ban on all nets was needed. After an initial veto by the governor, the legislature passed the ban.
But the ban, Everhardt said, forced many commercial fishermen who formerly fished for finfish – including redfish, black drum and speckled trout – to swap over to shrimp, oysters and crab.
That influx of fishermen into the shrimp, oyster and crab industry upset the whole industry’s balance, according to Everhardt.
“Fifteen years later, the fish are overpopulated and our shrimp, oyster and crab populations are down,” Everhardt said.
Now, Everhardt said, shrimp, oyster and crab numbers are being hurt even more because of the overpopulation of finfish, which feed on shellfish.
“The average redfish eats 12 pounds of shrimp per day,” he explained.
Everhardt said he hopes a new strike net fishery will solve a number of problems in the industry.
“We’ll be able to sell and harvest fish from our own water,” he said. “Plus it will improve our day to day catches of shrimp and oysters. It’s long overdue.”
Everhardt emphasized that the strike nets proposed in the resolution are not the same as the infamous gill nets that spawned the 1995 ban. Unlike the gill net, which could be abandoned by fishermen, the strike net is cast at a school of fish and retrieved immediately.
Barisich, on the other hand, stressed the historical importance of net fishing in Louisiana.
“For years, with our nets, we were a part of the checks and balances,” Barisich said.
Both Barisich and Everhardt pointed out that net fishing was a part of Louisiana fishing culture since immigrants first settled in the state. Their proposed strike net fishery, they said, honors that legacy.
Everhardt and Barisich said they will depend on the area’s state delegation to put together a bill that will be palatable for the Legislature. State Senator A.G. Crowe said he’s behind the effort.
“I’m in total support of that,” Crowe said. “It’s basically designed to help preserve the livelihood of our fishermen.”