The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is seeking public comment from all coastal stakeholders regarding its draft “Louisiana Oyster Management and Rehabilitation Strategic Plan.”
The LDWF Office of Fisheries is responsible for the protection, conservation and replenishment of Louisiana’s renewable, aquatic natural resources, including Louisiana oysters. In the wake of Louisiana’s recent man-made and natural disasters, this crucial task has never been as important as it is today.
The 2019 oyster stock assessment indicates that Louisiana is experiencing the lowest stock size in the public oyster areas ever recorded, according to the Strategic Plan draft. The decline, according to the draft, is not a result of any single event, but reflects the effects of a myriad of population stressors. Those include changes in hydrology, extreme weather events, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill/response activities, harvest pressure, and most notably, the 2018-2019 Mississippi River flooding event.
“This plan contains initiatives that have the potential to assist in the oyster rehabilitation process,” said Patrick Banks, LDWF Assistant Secretary for Fisheries. “It can increase the productivity and viability of the public oyster areas in Louisiana, aid the oyster industry in adjusting to a changing coast, and allow the industry to be sustainable into the future.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office directed LDWF to begin developing the plan in 2019. The Louisiana Legislature further instructed LDWF through the passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution 56 during the 2020 legislative session.
Members of the Louisiana Oyster Task Force, the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), and the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities assisted in the development of the plan draft. Additionally, CPRA committed significant funding to help LDWF implement initiatives in the plan.
“CPRA is proud to be a part of this strategic plan to assist the oyster industry and the oyster resource itself,” said CPRA Executive Director Bren Haase. “This is an important part of our central mission, the implementation of projects that benefit our coastal habitats as well as our working coast.”
According to the draft, it will cost approximately $132.3 million to fund all initiatives in the plan, which will take an estimated five years, at a minimum, to implement.
The 17-page plan is available at: https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/assets/Resources/Publications/Oyster/Oyster-Strategic-Plan—Public-Notice-Draft.pdf
LDWF will assemble and consider comments submitted by December 4, 2020, and will finalize the plan document for submission to the Governor’s Office and the Legislature later this year. Comments can be submitted via email to Carolina Bourque, LDWF Oyster Program Manager, at [email protected] or by regular mail to Carolina Bourque, P.O. Box 98000, Baton Rouge, LA 70898.