The past year sure has been a whirlwind for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. New administrations, frustrated anglers, and plenty of disagreements have left newly-appointed Secretary Jack Montoucet with a sink full of dirty dishes. However, the newly appointed Secretary has a promising message to anyone concerned with the state’s wildlife and fisheries- “you have a seat at the table”.
That is what Secretary Montoucet told our group on Wednesday, February 1st around the ‘Avery Island’ at Bourbon House. GRN’s Gulf Fish Forever campaign organized the meeting between LDWF and local chefs in order to have a conversation with the Secretary about how we will all move forward after a rocky 2016. Most will agree that things got ugly, and sometimes emotions got the better of those involved. However, Secretary Montoucet remains positive and is accepting his new position with open arms.
The Gulf Fish Forever campaign continuously works to fight for fishery management in the Gulf for everyone, not just a few stakeholders. We realize the importance of commercial and recreational fishermen, but often times, the people who have the greatest stake in the resource are the least represented. Of course, these are the people who buy, cook, and eat our local seafood. According to the state of Louisiana, our tourism industry brings in $11.5 billion per year, and the top three activities people come for are to visit friends and family, shop, and to eat our food (in that order)! There is no doubt that recreational and commercial fishermen are extremely important to our economy, but we cannot ignore the masses. People visit to enjoy the plethora of Gulf Seafood that cannot be enjoyed anywhere else. Many of our restaurants serve seafood the same day it was landed- a freshness that can only be enjoyed in a few select areas of the world.
It is for this reason that GRN sat down in unity with local chefs (many of us are also recreational fishermen here in Louisiana) to express our hope to be included in decision-making moving forward. Without valuable input from the people who rely on the fish landed commercially to serve the people who come to our city from all over the world, the decision makers cannot say that they are working in the best interests of everyone involved. Our goal moving forward is not only to continue to work in the best interest of the fishery as a whole, but we also would like to work to educate consumers. Many people in our community do not know much about local fisheries, how they work, and current legislation that could change it for better or for worse. If the public is well informed, they will be able to support or express displeasure in certain actions before they happen. This will lead not only to a better-connected community, but also to a fishery management plan that is truly good for everyone (including the fish!)
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries thanked us for bringing this point of view to their attention, as they had not been in contact with chefs and consumers on the matter previously. Though their decisions may not always make all parties happy, it is important that they see and hear from the people who care. This meeting did just that, and we look forward to many more in the future. The Gulf Restoration Network supports the strengthening of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and we will continue to support fishery management that uses the best-available science and considers the community as a whole in any decision-making moving forward. Thanks again to Secretary Montoucet, Assistant Secretary Patrick Banks, and the chefs who attended.