The Wild Side: Offshore anglers get small break

The hand-wringing federal and state fishery managers put Louisiana’s offshore fishermen through in the last year might be over.

Not only is the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council considering releasing the handling of one or more species into the hands of state biologists and managers, but the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries also recommended to relieve fishermen of a burden most adopted into their fishing regimen, but few understood the reasons for the regulations.

In short, what the LDWF staff recommended to the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission on Thursday will make it easier for most of us to know what, when and by how much we can do when we’re on the water.

There’s nothing new in the proposal to change the requirement that all offshore fishermen have a fee-free Recreational Offshore Landing Permit when they head for deep-water action.

The permit allowed state biologists and survey teams to ask anglers in the ROLP for their catches throughout the year. The permit is required for anyone catching and bringing back to port all tunas, billfish, swordfish, amberjacks, groupers, snappers and hinds. Proposed additions to this list are gray snapper, wahoo, cobia and dolphin.

At the same time, the proposal will relieve anglers catching tuna of the responsibility of reporting their catch to the LDWF before offloading the fish at a dock, a marina or a landing.

The move also frees anglers on charterboats from the permit requirement, and assigns the reporting responsibility to the charterboat skipper.

“Our collection and survey methods have been refined to the point where we can use the information gathered from permit holders to give us more than adequate and accurate data,” LDWF assistant secretary Randy Pausina said.

Pausina didn’t have to spell it out, but the state’s efforts in data collection on these species is designed to strengthen Louisiana’s push towards regional management, a move that will take the National Marine Fisheries Service and the GMFMC out of the season-setting and trip limit-setting business.

“It is more important now than ever that anglers provide LDWF biologists with this critical data that will only strengthen our fight (for regional management),” Pausina said in a prepared statement following Thursday’s LWFC meeting on Grand Isle.

Offshore anglers can get the permit via website: rolp.wlf.la.gov/Permit/Apply.

Other proposed changes outlined by LDWF managers included setting in stone a June 1-July 31 closed season on the commercial and recreational take of gray triggerfish and the recreational take of gag grouper; a recreational limit of two gray triggerfish and 10 vermilion snapper within the 20 reef-fish aggregate daily limit; and, removed the requirement that anyone fishing for reef fish have and use a venting tool.

Comments on these proposals can be emailed to jadriance@wlf.la.gov before Sept. 5.