Two bills have been filed in the Mississippi Legislature (Senate Bill 2311 and House Bill 1156) that propose to allow the industrial menhaden fishery to retain 45 or 1 percent, respectively, red drum incidentally caught in their purse seine operations.
Menhaden are a critical part of the marine food chain and are forage for almost every dynamic game fish and predator species in the Gulf of Mexico. Although exact figures on the amount of bycatch caught by menhaden vessels are a closely guarded secret, it is believed to be considerable.
What we do know is that this bycatch is not included in the current Red Drum Fishery Management Plan or data on which that plan has been developed. CCA has urged legislators to reject this proposal and maintain current regulations that prohibit an industrial menhaden vessel from retaining any red drum.
The FMP does assign a 60,000-pound commercial quota, which is caught primarily by commercial hook-and-line fishermen. If this proposal is allowed to pass, that quota could be quickly caught by the fishing power of the menhaden purse seine, which numbers an estimated 12 vessels. This would inevitably cause negative impacts on those working commercial fishermen as well.
There are many questions about this proposal. The current red drum management plan has worked well for Mississippi, bringing back a stock that is critically important to coastal anglers and commercial fishermen. The current legal framework has served the state well, and it is unnecessarily risky to create loopholes so that one individual stakeholder can skirt the law.
CCA urges the public to oppose this flawed legislation.
Chairman, Government Relations Committee
Coastal Conservation Association Mississippi