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Old 07-09-2014, 08:19 AM
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Default Thoughts on CCA meeting tonight on state of Calcasieu fishery

CCA is likely hosting this meeting tonight in response to complaints and pressure from anglers in SWLA regarding the state of the fishery and CCA's past unresponsiveness to issues like oyster over harvesting, poor weir management, erosion, and CCA's focus on bad policies (trout limits, tripletail limits, license fee increases) rather than habitat protection.

CCA's goal is to get anglers to give them money by joining CCA and/or entering the STAR tournament. If they succeed in this goal simply by setting up this meeting, they will continue to push for bad, unscientific policies knowing that hosting a meeting to discuss the issues will keep the cash coming in, and there is no need to change their policy emphasis toward real habitat conservation and away from bad policies. It is important that attendees maintain a firm position regarding how CCA needs to change without taking out their angst on guest speakers who really have little to do with CCA.

Everyone should try to treat all the speakers with the highest level of respect and politeness while being firm on the following points if given an opportunity to express their views or ask questions:

1. Management decisions, including limits, need to be made with sound science not unfounded fears or socio-economic reasons. The data and scientific reasoning supporting management decisions should be made available to the public. The LWC needs to stop considering testimony from CCA as sound scientific input, because CCA grossly misled the LWC on recent issues like the tripletail limit and lowering the spotted seatrout limit in Big Lake.

2. The destruction of essential oyster reef habitat with mechanical dredges needs to stop. Oysters provide valuable ecosystem services and increase the productivity of all systems in which the reefs are allowed to thrive unmolested. If dredging is stopped and reefs are allowed to recover, Big Lake will most likely support a sustainable oyster fishery if oysters are harvested with tongs, but mechanical dredging destroys the vertical relief and reduces the interstitial spaces that make the reefs such valuable habitat. Mechanical dredging also stirs up sediment and increases turbidity.

3. The weirs need to be managed according to the management plan and based on salinity and water levels in the adjacent lake and marsh behind the weirs. The weirs should be opened whenever conditions allow to maximize exchange between the marsh and lake. In the long term, strategies should be considered to reduce the salinity in the lake so that the weirs can be opened more often returning the ecosystem closer to its natural state. If a saltwater barrier in the channel is unworkable, reducing the coupling between the ship channel and lower lake with a physical barrier would probably work.

4. The closing of the pogey plant and strong age zero class of gulf menhaden and other forage fish has given the forage base a temporary boost in 2014 and helped the fishery recover from negative effects of weir mismanagement and oyster reef destruction. In the long term, maintaining high levels of productivity in the fishery will require ensuring a balanced forage base by protecting valuable oyster reef habitat and optimizing coupling between the lake and marsh.

The tone should be positive, but firm. If everyone leaves the meeting with a feeling of "mission accomplished" like we just held hands and sang "kum ba yah" then we have failed because parties think that the dog and pony show was sufficient and that follow through on the above action items is not really necessary. Both CCA reps and the guests speakers should leave the meeting with the impression that local anglers are well-informed and angry with the mismanagement of the fishery over the past ten years, but that ongoing responsiveness and tangible long term policy changes can improve both the state of the fishery and relations with anglers. Who knows, if they make good choices for a few years, by 2020, we might even be willing to cancel the S.T.A.R. boycott.
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