General

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Belle Chase Man Cited for DWI on the Water

Release Date: 08/30/2011

 

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division agents cited a Belle Chase man for allegedly driving or operating a vessel while intoxicated (DWI) on Aug. 27.

Agents performed a boating safety inspection of a personal watercraft (PWC) being operated by Kevin Hoots, 40, in the Intracoastal Waterway near Lafitte.  During the inspection, agents detected an odor of an alcoholic beverage on Hoots' breath.

During the standard field sobriety test, agents determined Hoots was impaired.  Hoots also registered a blood alcohol content over the legal limit of .08 after agreeing to take a Breathalyzer test.  Agents booked Hoots into the Gretna Correctional Facility for a first offense DWI.

First offense DWI brings a fine between $300 and $1,000, up to six months in jail or both.

Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time.  It can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion.  Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs and some prescription medications.

In Louisiana, a DWI on the water carries the same penalties and fines as on the road and includes jail time, fines and loss of driving and boating operator privileges.  Also, each offense of operating a vehicle or vessel while intoxicated counts toward the total number of DWI crimes whether they happened on the water or road.

Agents participating in the case were Senior Agent Doug Danna and Agent Jared Taylor.

For more information, contact Adam Einck at aeinck@wlf.la.gov.

Greater Amberjack Commercial Season to Reopen Sept. 1

Release Date: 08/30/2011

August 29, 2011– The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced the 2011 commercial fishing season for greater amberjack will reopen in state waters on September 1, at 12:01 a.m., and will remain open until October 30 at 11:59 p.m. 

The 2011 season had previously been closed on June 18 as it was predicted that the 2011 quota had been met. However, after reviewing the landings (total amberjack caught and brought to dock measured in pounds) for the 2010 commercial greater amberjack season, fisheries biologists determined that an additional 86,452 pounds were available for harvest. That means commercial fishermen will have an additional 23 percent of the annual harvest available when they hit the waters this fall.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will also open federal waters for commercial amberjack fishing September 1 through October 30. 

Greater amberjack are found throughout the Gulf of Mexico as well as in the temperate and tropical Atlantic Ocean.  Greater amberjack usually live in nearshore waters out to 300 feet deep.  This species is found throughout the Gulf of Mexico, and is often found near offshore platforms, wrecks and artificial reefs.  Greater amberjack can reach sizes of three feet in length and weights of 170 pounds. 

Louisianacommercial landings of greater amberjack average 100,000 pounds annually.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana's abundant natural resources. For more information, visit us at www.wlf.louisiana.gov on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ldwffb or follow us on Twitter @LDWF.

For more information contact Jason Adriance at 504.284.2032 or jadriance@wlf.la.gov.  For press inquiries contact Laura Deslatte at 225.610.2363 or ldeslatte@wlf.la.gov

Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission Meetings

Date: 
Thu, 12/01/2011

The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission has scheduled the next regular public board meeting for 9:30 a.m. on December 1, 2011, at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries building located at 2000 Quail Drive in Baton Rouge in the Louisiana Room.

Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission Meetings

Date: 
Thu, 11/03/2011

The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission has scheduled the next regular public board meeting for 9:30 a.m. on November 3, 2011, at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries building located at 2000 Quail Drive in Baton Rouge in the Louisiana Room.

Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission Meetings

Date: 
Thu, 10/06/2011

The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission has scheduled the next regular public board meeting for 9:30 a.m. on October 6, 2011, at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries building located at 2000 Quail Drive in Baton Rouge in the Louisiana Room.

Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission Meetings

Date: 
Thu, 09/01/2011

The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission has scheduled the next regular public board meeting for 9:30 a.m. on September 1, 2011, at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries building located at 2000 Quail Drive in Baton Rouge in the Louisiana Room.

Agents Respond to Boating Crash Incident on Diversion Canal

Release Date: 08/29/2011

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division agents responded to a boating crash incident on Aug. 27 in the Amite River Diversion Canal area of Livingston Parish around 7 p.m.

The occupants of a civilian vessel advised LDWF agents patrolling the area of a boating crash incident that just occurred one mile up river.  Agents immediately responded and were first on scene.

Upon arrival agents found that the 19-foot vessel had struck and was lodged under a pier.  The five occupants of the vessel are listed below:

Jack Riffle, 41, operator; Elizabeth Riffle, 44, wife of Jack; 15 year old girl, daughter of the Riffles; 13-year-old boy, son of the Riffles; and Chico Garcia, 29.  All involved are from Baton Rouge and found to have injuries ranging from moderate to very serious

Agents immediately summoned emergency medical responders and began removing debris in order to access and provide basic first-aid to the injured until the advanced medical responders were able to arrive.  The cause of the incident is currently under investigation by LDWF.

Agents involved in the response were Sgt. Randy Lanoux, Sgt. Todd Lewis, Sgt. Ezekiel Talbert, Agent Terry Hicks and Agent Dale Wheat.

For more information contact Adam Einck at aeinck@wlf.la.gov.

L.D.W.F. Verifies Cougar Sighting in Vernon Parish

Release Date: 08/29/2011

Cougar

Aug. 29, 2011-- The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) has received photographic evidence of the presence of a cougar in Vernon Parish. 

A private citizen sent LDWF a trail camera picture taken Aug. 13, 2011. LDWF Large Carnivore Program Manager Maria Davidson and biologist Brandon Wear conducted a site investigation that confirmed the authenticity of the photograph.

“It is quite possible for this animal to be captured on other trail cameras placed at deer bait sites,” Davidson said.  “Deer are the primary prey item for cougars; therefore, they are drawn to areas where deer congregate.”

It is unlikely this cougar will remain in any one area longer than it would take to consume a kill.  Cougars do not prefer to eat spoiled meat and will move on as soon as the Louisiana heat and humidity take its toll on the kill.

“It is impossible to determine if the animal in the photograph is a wild, free-ranging cougar, or an escaped captive," Davidson added.  “Although it is illegal to own a cougar in Louisiana, it is possible that there are some illegally held ’pets’ in the state.”

LDWF has documented several occurrences since 2002.  The first cougar sighting was in 2002 by an employee at Lake Fausse Point State Park.  That sighting was later confirmed with DNA analysis from scat found at the site.  Three trail camera photos were taken of a cougar in Winn, Vernon and Allen parishes in 2008.   Subsequently on Nov. 30, 2008, a cougar was shot and killed in a neighborhood by Bossier City Police Department.

The mountain lion, cougar, panther or puma are names that all refer to the same animal.  Their color ranges from lighter tan to brownish grey.  The only species of big cats that occur as black are the jaguar and leopard.  Jaguars are native to South America and leopards are native to Africa.  Both species can occur as spotted or black, although in both cases the spotted variety is much more common.  Although LDWF receives numerous calls about black panthers, there has never been a documented case of a black cougar anywhere in North America. 

The vast majority of these reports received by LDWF cannot be verified due to the very nature of a sighting.  Many of the calls are determined to be cases of mistaken identity, with dog tracks making up the majority of the evidence submitted by those reporting cougar sightings.  Other animals commonly mistaken for cougars are bobcats and house cats, usually seen from a distance or in varying shades of light.

The significant lack of physical evidence indicates that Louisiana does not have an established, breeding population of cougars.  In states that have verified small populations of cougars, physical evidence can readily be found in the form of tracks, cached deer kills, scat and road kills. 

The recent sightingsof cougars in Louisiana are believed to be young animals dispersing from existing populations.  An expanding population in Texas can produce dispersing individual cougars that move into suitable habitat in Louisiana.  Young males are known to disperse from their birthplace and travel hundreds of miles seeking their own territories. 

Cougars that occur in Louisiana are protected under state and federal law.  Penalties for taking a cougar in Louisiana may include up to one year in jail and/or a $100,000 fine.  Anyone with any information regarding the taking of a cougar should call the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-442-2511.  Callers may remain anonymous and may receive a cash reward.

To report verifiable sightings of cougars with physical evidence such as photos, tracks and/or scat, please call your nearest LDWF Field Office at:

Minden                      318-371-3050

Monroe                      318-343-4044

Pineville                    318-487-5885

Lake Charles            337-491-2575

Opelousas                 337-948-0255

Hammond                 985-543-4779          

For more information, please contact Maria Davidson at 225-931-3061 or mdavidson@wlf.la.gov .

The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana's abundant natural resources. For more information, visit us at www.wlf.louisiana.gov on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ldwffb or follow us on Twitter @LDWF.

Louisiana Officials Continue to Investigate Pearl River Fish Kill

Release Date: 08/26/2011

August 26, 2011 – Louisiana officials continue to investigate the impacts of the Temple-Inland discharge of “black liquor” on the Pearl River’s fisheries resources. Numerous levels of assessment are underway by the Louisiana departments of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), Health and Hospitals (DHH), and Environmental Quality (DEQ), including seafood safety testing, waterbody quality tests, testing of private water wells, evaluation of baseline species and efforts to determine the of effects on fish and other aquatic life as a result of the wastewater discharge that occurred on Tuesday, August 9, 2011. State officials continue to work together to assess the incident impact and long-term recovery plans.

Seafood Testing

Fisheries biologists with LDWF collected seafood samples throughout the Pearl River and at the mouth of the river in the Rigolets. DHH sanitarians also collected oyster samples from areas near the mouth of the river to be tested. All of the samples were sent to an independent laboratory in Metairie, La., contracted by DHH.

Eurofins Central Analytical Laboratory, the company which helped test Louisiana’s seafood during the Gulf oil spill, is testing samples from this incident for volatile and semi-volatile organic contaminants. These types of chemicals don’t typically build up in seafood tissue, however, state officials are having these tests conducted out of an abundance of caution.

Determining Fisheries Impacts and Restitution Claims

LDWF is also working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS), Louisiana State University fisheries experts, and officials with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to determine the loss of aquatic life, including fish and freshwater mussels.

Initially, more than 26 species of freshwater fish were identified in the fish kill.  They include Paddlefish, American eel, catfish, bass and bluegill. Species with similar characteristics were grouped together in some cases due to the massive volume of fish and the expansive range of the kill.   There are, for example, numerous specific species of darter fish in the Pearl River only distinguishable by variations on the dorsal fin, small color variations or other minute differences.  Experts with the Tulane University Natural History Museum are working with LDWF fisheries biologists to establish a baseline for species native to the Pearl River. That baseline will serve as the “before” picture for restitution claims.

A total restitution value for the fish kill will be compiled once the investigation is complete.  LDWF officials are working with USFWS in their investigation into the deaths of federally listed threatened and endangered species.   More than 26 threatened gulf sturgeons were involved in the incident.  Work is currently underway to determine its status of the inflated heelsplitter, a threatened freshwater mussel species.  In addition to state restitution values for fish and freshwater mussel deaths, Temple-Inland may be subject to civil or criminal fines for those species covered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Officials with LDWF are also developing a three-year monitoring plan to monitor the re-establishment of Pearl River aquatic resources.   Selected sampling gears, including electrofishing and nets will be employed under standardized protocol to ensure that results accurately represent the status of recovery.   LDWF plans to continue to pursue an agreement with Temple-Inland by which the responsible party would pay for the necessary fisheries resource monitoring.

Waterbody Safety, Monitoring and Ongoing Investigation

DEQ’s Incident Command post is still up and running at Temple-Inland and serves as a central point for DEQ staff to coordinate sampling events and record data. An overflight of the impacted area by DEQ occurred on Wednesday, August 24; during that overflight no dead fish were observed. Overflights will continue to determine if any additional fish remain. If additional fish are located, they will be cleaned up and disposed of by a team on standby for that purpose.

The compliance order and amended compliance order for Temple-Inland have been issued. This is the first step in the legal process for issuing penalties and for ensuring upgrades are in place to better treat and monitor discharges from the facility.

The company has been given permission to begin a limited discharge, which will commence today, August 26. Yesterday, DEQ staff was on site walking through the plan with the company in preparation for the discharge.

DEQ continues to collect water samples along various portions of the river.

The survey will gather water quality information that will be used to restore and protect the waterbody. Data gathered from the survey will be used to identify suspected pollutants in the waterbody that may cause or contribute to low oxygen levels in the water.

Citizens are asked not to tamper with the equipment that will be mounted on rebar, fence posts, white PVC poles or buoys. During the survey, a bright red, non-toxic dye will be injected into the water. Citizens who notice the red coloration of the water should not be alarmed. The water body will return to its normal state and color by the end of the day. The dye is used to determine flow and distribution patterns of the bayou. These patterns are used to establish sampling points for the survey.

DEQ will also install electronic monitoring equipment in conjunction with a water sampling survey on Pearl River in Washington and St. Tammany parishes.

Water Safety Measures

DHH has tested 18 privately owned domestic water wells located near the Pearl River. Results showed that water from these wells is safe to drink under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s safe drinking water standards. DHH collected and tested samples from these private water wells chosen by St. Tammany and Washington parish officials and were within a quarter of a mile of the Pearl River. In Louisiana, the individual well owner is responsible for maintaining and testing their private well. However, in this instance, Temple-Inland is paying for the state’s testing.

Public Health Resources

The Louisiana Poison Center has received 13 calls in the past week regarding the Pearl River spill. Callers are generally requesting details on public health, consuming fish and swimming in affected water. Anyone with questions regarding potential health effects can call the Louisiana Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana's abundant natural resources. For more information, visit us at www.wlf.louisiana.gov on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ldwffb or follow us on Twitter @LDWF.

For press inquiries, Olivia Watkins at 225-610-8660 or owatkins@wlf.la.gov.

LDWF Biologists Continue to Investigate Crab Mortalities in Lake Borgne

Release Date: 08/26/2011

August 26, 2011 – Fisheries biologists with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) are investigating reports of crab mortalities by fishermen in Lake Borgne. The reports, which began on Sunday, August 21, were made by commercial fishermen pulling dead fish and crabs from traps through much of the lake. Initial reports indicate that areas of hypoxia, as a result of limited exchange of oxygen from the surface to the bottom layers of the water column, are the cause of these mortalities.

Hypoxic areas in the Gulf of Mexico, sometimes called “dead zones” can cause mortalities for those species unable to quickly relocate to areas where there is oxygen in the water for them to “breathe.” Hypoxic zones can be common along Louisiana’s coast in the summer months. Current hypoxic zones have been occurring in the northern Lake Borgne, the Mississippi Sound, Chandeleur Sound, Breton Sound, Black Bay and the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) for approximately the last month, as well as the more well-known areas offshore west of the Mississippi River. Some of these areas have been experiencing some levels of hypoxia for the last two to three months.

While the current series of crab mortalities from hypoxia are in the general region at the mouth of the Pearl River where a dramatic fish kill was reported on August 13, fisheries experts do not believe the two events to be linked.  However, out of an abundance of caution, LDWF fisheries biologists collected crab samples and sent them to the independent laboratory, Eurofins Central Analytical Laboratory, contracted by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals for both volatile and semi-volatile testing.  

LDWF fisheries biologists report that high levels of freshwater that have inundated Lake Borgne and other waterbodies near the mouth of the Mississippi River likely created hypoxic areas that crab fishermen have encountered.

Unusually large amounts of freshwater has reduced the ability of the water to mix from top to bottom in many areas, affecting dissolved oxygen levels in the lower part of the water column.  In addition,high water temperatures further reduce the amount of oxygen the water can hold. Also, the large input of nutrients has led to increased organic production whose decomposition in the bottom layers further reduces oxygen concentrations.

Fisheries biologists with the state will continue to investigate crab and fish mortalities as they are reported. Once results of the tests are made available with DHH, they will be made available for the public. Fish kills are common occurrences in coastal Louisiana during the summer months. LDWF cooperates with other state agencies in monitoring these occurrences on an ongoing basis.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana's abundant natural resources. For more information, visit us at www.wlf.louisiana.gov on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ldwffb or follow us on Twitter @LDWF.

For press inquiries, contact Olivia Watkins at 225-610-8660 or owatkins@wlf.la.gov.  

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