Wildlife and Fisheries to cut Louisiana TAG program

Wildlife and Fisheries to cut Louisiana TAG program

(WAFB) - The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) has decided that in January, it will end a program that allows sportsmen to tag and release fish. Recreational fishermen worry the move will sink all sorts of valuable data.

Fishermen love what they do. The Sportsman's Paradise offers angling off almost any coast, bank, or bayou. Fishermen have long tagged fish and released them to learn more about the species they gather. In 2010, the LDWF implemented a program that allows volunteer anglers to report their findings.

"We serve as a voice for the fish and fishermen across Louisiana," David Cresson said.

David Cresson, the executive director for the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) of Louisiana, which contributes roughly $147,000 a year to TAG Louisiana, said since it partnered with the state, the data collected increased tremendously.

"There's a ton of info that comes with each tagged fish. Where was it caught? How big it was when it was caught? What were the conditions when it was caught," Cresson said.

In the most recent tagging season, volunteer anglers tagged and released just over 33,000 fish, mostly Red Drum and Spotted Seatrout. Around 1,300 were recaptured.

"When those fish are recaptured, they have moved, they have grown. You can compare how they react to the changing habitat, changing weather conditions," Cresson said.

Most volunteers believe this information is invaluable to the state's multi-billion dollar fishing industry, but while reviewing contracts to make some $6.7 million in necessary cuts, Louisiana LDWF secretary, Charlie Melancon, said the TAG program was one of 22 that will easily get the axe.

"Yeah, this was a low hanging fruit," said Melancon.

The program costs $680,000 a year to run. Seventy-five percent of it is covered by federal gr ants, but Melancon said that is nearly $200,000 the department can no longer afford.

"There was a time when the price of oil was $100 a barrel, when BP money was flowing into this agency, and a lot of programs started getting creative. Now we don't have that money, that revenue," Melancon said.

Melancon also said the data is not being used, and that state biologists will continue to research impacts on the industry, but anglers like Cresson are not buying it.

"I think we need to look at the big picture here. This is more than just dollars and cents. This is about something important to our culture here in Louisiana," Cresson said.

The CCA is looking for new ways to keep the program online without the state's help.

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