Release Date: 04/29/2010

The Louisiana departments of Health and Hospitals, and Wildlife and Fisheries, announced today they will be closing select fishing areas and oyster harvesting beds as a precautionary response to the oil spill in the Gulf.

Fishing Closures

LDWF Secretary Robert Barham announced the closure of both recreational and commercial fishing in Zone 1, excluding the coastal boundaries of Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurapas.  This closure will take place at 6 p.m. this evening.  The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig accident has resulted in a significant release of oil into the offshore waters of southeast Louisiana. Oil has the potential to impact fish and other aquatic life in portions of Louisiana's coastal waters. 

"I signed this emergency closure today as a proactive effort to prevent any oil-tainted fish, shrimp or crab from being caught and thus consumed," said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham.  "Now is the time to act as we see what the impacts may be to Louisiana's fragile ecosystems."

Oyster Harvesting Closures

DHH is closing molluscan shellfish harvesting areas 2 through 7 today as a precaution.  Areas 2 through 7 are east of the Mississippi River in the coastal parishes of Plaquemines and St. Bernard.

DHH Secretary Alan Levine and State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry signed the closure order, which will take effect at sunset today, Friday, April 30, 2010.

Since the explosion at the BP global exploration site and resulting leak, officials from DHH's Office of Public Health Molluscan Shellfish Program have been closely monitoring the situation and continuing daily tests of the 8-million acre Louisiana shoreline.

As officials continue to monitor the remaining unaffected oyster beds west of the Mississippi River, DHH is working closely with LDWF, the state's oyster harvesters and the Louisiana Oyster Task Force to ensure the safety of oysters taken from areas currently not affected by the spill. All oysters taken prior to closure of the affected beds are safe to eat.

"We have an extensive and well-tested program of monitoring the safety of oysters harvested in Louisiana," Sec. Levine said. "We have been monitoring the oysters in the affected areas before the closures and will use those tests as a baseline to ensure long-term safety of the oysters when this incident ends."


Dr. Guidry said the department's team continues to conduct regular monitoring of the unaffected areas.


"Oysters that are still coming out of the many unaffected beds across the Louisiana coast are being watched closely," Dr. Guidry said. "All of the beds that remain open are safe."

Officials with both agencies are working closely with the Governor's Office for Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness as the situation unfolds. Updates on any further closures or changes in the status of areas closed will be posted at

To learn more about DHH, visit To learn more about LDWF, visit




Release Date: 04/28/2010

Today, April 29, at noon, LDWF Secretary Barham will open in Shrimp Management Zone 2 including state outside waters between Freshwater Bayou Canal and the Atchafalaya River Ship Channel and that portion of Zone 1 north of 29 degrees 30 minutes 00 seconds north latitude, with the exclusion of the area south of 29 degrees, 30 minutes (or the mouth of the Mississippi River/Mississippi Delta area).  These waters will remain open to shrimp harvesting until further notice.

Unseasonably colder temperatures and wet winter conditions have delayed brown shrimp recruitment and growth in inshore waters; however, samples collected by LDWF Office of Fisheries biologists have indicated the presence of significant numbers of marketable size, over-wintering white shrimp in these waters. In consideration of the potential threat to these resources posed by the proximity of an offshore oil spill, this special season should provide fishermen with added economic opportunity through the harvest and sale of over-wintering white shrimp.

It is important to stress that Louisiana seafood is safe to eat.  The state continues to work closely with LDWF field biologists and DHH to ensure all seafood harvested are safe for consumer consumption.    

For more information contact Laura Deslatte at or 225-765-2335.



Release Date: 04/28/2010

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham announced that the special shrimp season will close at 6 a.m., Friday, April 30 in the portion of Shrimp Management Zone 1 south of the southern shore of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and the open waters of Breton and Chandeleur Sounds.  The special shrimp season in the remaining portion of Zone 1 shall remain open to shrimp harvesting until further notice.

The opening dates for the 2010 spring inshore shrimp season will be considered by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission at the May 6 meeting to be held at LDWF headquarters.

For more information contact Laura Deslatte at 225.610.2363 or


Lake Bistineau April 12, 2010 Update


There will be a public meeting to discuss the Lake Bistineau Rehabilitation Plan at the Lake Bistineau State Park, Area 1, Boat Launch Pavilion on April 17, at 9 a.m.  Mark McElroy from LDWF will attend the meeting to discuss aspects of the plan and answer questions. 

Those planning to attend the meeting are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the plan posted below.  

Lake Bistineau March 10, 2010 Update


Temperatures are rising and "green-up" is around the corner. Fishing activity has increased over the last few weeks as the crappie, or white perch run has noticeably commenced. With summer just a few weeks ahead, inquiries about the lake level have increased. The most commonly asked question is, "What will the lake levels be during the summer?" My response is, "We don’t know." Plans are to fluctuate the water level throughout the summer, and I believe the lake level will be anywhere from pool stage to seven feet below pool stage. Rain events and implementation of a plan to address giant salvinia will dictate water levels. Next week, Secretary Robert Barham and Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina will be briefed on the plan.

Aquatic herbicide spray treatments commenced this week. The primary purpose of these initial treatments is to break up salvinia mats in order to facilitate their movement. We need the mats to move to areas we can potentially strand during water fluctuations. A remote sensing fly-over will be conducted for Lake Bistineau on Monday, March 15.

This Thursday, we will examine the lake by boat to locate mats with GPS (coordinates will be used in the fly-over), to understand how the lowering of the lake is affecting stranded plants and to further evaluate freeze damage. Initial evaluation of the plants indicates winter freezes caused significant damage to the plants, including bud damage.

Salvinia weevils were not detected in samples taken from the lake last week. We believe at this point that very few, if any weevils, survived the winter. A video flyover will be conducted as early as next week to determine and document winter effects on the lake. This will serve as a baseline just prior to the beginning of the growing season.

The department has no involvement with the airboat traffic and markers associated with the seismic activity on the lake. Those individuals are permitted to conduct this work, and we are not involved with their daily activities.

We’ve met with officials from Webster Parish regarding preliminary plans to construct a new boating access facility with access capability at minus seven feet. Our department is interested in assisting the parish to fund this endeavor. Enhancing and promoting boating and fishing access is very important us and is therefore addressed prominently in the plan.

We want to encourage everyone interested in working with the department to rehabilitate Lake Bistineau to stay informed and engaged. We can’t do this by ourselves, and we appreciate your interest and involvement.

On a personal note, working with the folks in the region has been very helpful and something that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed as we work through this process. It helps when everyone generally wants the same thing.

Mark McElroy
Fisheries Biologist

Lake Bistineau February 18, 2010 Update


I have received several questions recently regarding the current status of the lake and future plans.  I’ll take this opportunity to try and answer these as best as I can.

First, there is some seismic work for gas exploration being conducted on the lake which is why you’re seeing airboats and flagging.

Our plan does stipulate that cypress trees are contributing to poor water quality and lagoon building which promotes nursery building for giant salvinia growth.  Some cypress tree removal is recommended in our plan.

As of last Friday, the water level was three inches above pool stage.  Since the drawdown was initiated on September 16 (5 months ago), the water level has risen three inches.  The unusual fall and winter rain events have countered our intentions.  Unfortunately, we are also approaching the spring rainy season. 

I’ve received multiple inquiries regarding research by Dr. Lynn Walker at Louisiana Tech University.  We are very interested in his work and will continue to monitor his progress.  We will of course consider use of his research should he successful in acquiring an EPA label for use on giant salvinia.  As I understand, they are still conducting experimental trials and working on ways to ramp up production at this time.  However, let me remind everyone that EPA requires loads of statistical testing/reports in their consideration. Conducting these trials is very costly and will take time, probably years.  Our department will not use any herbicide for control of giant salvinia without a label stipulating its use for that plant.  

Right now, we suspect the salvinia weevils did not survive the freeze events.  We plan to reintroduce additional weevils later this summer pending their availability.  Additional samples will be taken next week to confirm our suspicions. 

We may need to close the gates again in the near future to remove the debris building up on the lake side. 

Next week, we will conduct a meeting to consider herbicide treatments in the lake for 2010.  I anticipate that as spring approaches, we will be putting crews out on the lake.


Mark McElroy
Fisheries Biologist

Lake Bistineau January 22, 2010 Update


Our staff has spent a great deal of time assessing the damage to giant salvinia plants as a result of recent freeze events. Damage to the exposed portion of the plants was extreme. However, just below the surface, the same plants exhibited green and potentially viable plant material. These observations are similar to those from previous winters. We suspect the plants will survive the winter and continue to grow throughout the spring.

Samples were taken in areas where weevils were stocked to assess their survival. I expect to have those results within the next few days.

I have received a number of inquiries requesting additional information about the drawdown. As of today, we have not achieved a seven foot drawdown due to heavy rainfall. Therefore, we anticipate the gates will remain open for some time. While the gates have been open, the increased rainfall has resulted in water fluctuations and stranding of the plants.

In fact, as we go forward, water fluctuations appear to be the best tool in our war chest to control this plant species in Lake Bistineau. We hope to continue manipulating water levels over the next few months. Therefore, I do not have a timeline for closing or opening the gates. It will depend upon the circumstances at that time.

The plan is undergoing review and rewrites.

You are encouraged to provide comments or questions on our website.

Mark McElroy
Fisheries Biologist

Lake Bistineau January 4, 2010 Update


Employees with DOTD successfully removed the debris in front of the control structure gates and subsequently reopened them last week. We anticipate keeping the gates open to resume the drawdown. The colder temperatures expected later this week should aid our efforts to kill more plants. Our staff will be monitor and assess the damage during the next few weeks.

I’ve received many emails regarding potential flooding while the gates were closed to clear debris. Luckily, the lake never rose higher than its previous state within the last few months. Removing the debris was necessary to resume the flow capability of the structure. I know that some are upset about the lake rising above pool stage in recent weeks. Unfortunately, we have experienced an unusually wet fall and winter. As a result of the heavy rain, our efforts to lower the lake down as planned have not been very successful. It’s important to realize that some flooding would have occurred regardless of whether the gates were closed based on rainfall totals.

Recall what occurred in recent months when the gates were open. As things stood, water was severely restricted due to debris buildup in front of the gates, and a decision was made to do what was necessary to resume water flow. I advise everyone to continue watching the weather forecasts to gauge potential lake rises.

I also received an inquiry about whether fish can be consumed after the application of department applied herbicides to the water. The answer is yes. We use herbicides approved by EPA and the state. The department is required to post advisories if applying something that could be harmful to humans or livestock. This is why we have insisted that people refrain from using “under the cabinet” solutions to treat the salvinia. There are many chemicals that will affect these plants, but legally we have only a few at our disposal. It takes millions of dollars and stringent testing to get a chemical label that stipulates its safe use.

I anticipate the completion of a plan this week and will forward it up the ladder for consideration. In an ideal situation I would like time to assess the lake bottom, but this is not possible due to the high water. Therefore, I have decided to start the process of review and consideration without that important information. Please keep in mind that my work needs to be reviewed by others prior to making it available to the public.

Thank you for your patience.

Mark McElroy
Fisheries Biologist

Lake Bistineau December 18, 2009 Update


I will speak with officials at DOTD early next week to see when the gates can be reopened. It is sometimes difficult to get things done during the week of Christmas. I would like to resume the draw down as soon as possible.

There has been a great deal of confusion and misinformation surrounding Lake Bistineau, and I would like to take a minute to clear up several items. First, the gates only allow for a draw down to seven feet below pool stage. We may decide to bring the lake down even farther, but in order to do so we will need to improvise. This has not been decided yet. We may also close the gates again in the near future to fluctuate water levels. This will be determined further into the process.

There has been a lot of discussion about the use of vinegar to kill salvinia. Vinegar is acidic and will indeed burn the plants exposed above the surface. However, the plants extend below the surface and based on our trials earlier this year, the plants grow right back. For that reason alone we are not interested in using vinegar. More importantly, vinegar does not have an aquatic label, and we are prohibited by federal law to use it in this situation.

Vinegar acts as a “contact” herbicide, although not a very successful one because it does not do a good job of killing the plants. Spraying “contact” herbicides will play a role in our plan to control salvinia, however there will be a de-emphasis in their usage going forward. If one looks at our spraying efforts over the last two years, it is easy to conclude that spraying along is neither economical nor effective.

Please note: There is now a place on this site to submit public comment. I am requesting all individuals, including those who have been emailing me directly, use this new feature to communicate. I will try to answer any questions and address concerns in future updates.

Mark McElroy
Fisheries Biologist

Lake Bistineau December 14, 2009 Update


Today, the department is requesting the Department of Transportation and Development close the gates at the control structure at their earliest convenience. There are two recommended reasons for the temporary closure. A significant amount of debris has floated down the lake and it either lodged in or in front of the control gates. Removing the debris can be accomplished safely while the water flow is reduced.

Also, closing the gates allows the lake level to increase, thereby increasing the potential drawdown effect on the plants. Water level fluctuation is one of many tools that can be used to control the salvinia on Lake Bistineau.

Mark McElroy
Fisheries Biologist

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