How We Manage Fisheries

A Shared Resource

Fish and shellfish are natural resources shared among many groups in Louisiana: from anglers catching redfish for sport and commercial fishermen shrimping for a living to people enjoying Louisiana seafood for dinner. These important fishery resources are renewable—they can reproduce and replenish their populations despite natural mortality and fishing. But they are not infinite—they must be harvested within certain limits to ensure they are not depleted over time. Fisheries management is the process of using science to determine these limits to ensure all groups can continue to share these resources for generations to come.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is responsible for managing Louisiana’s fisheries, maintaining healthy fish populations and habitat for the benefit of Louisiana’s residents and visitors, both of today and tomorrow.

Good Data = Good Management

Responsible fisheries management starts with sound scientific information about fish populations and the ecosystems in which they live, as well as the fisheries that harvest them.  LDWF biologists use a variety of methods to gather this information, including examining fishermen’s catch (fishery dependent data) and conducting scientific studies (fishery independent data).

They later analyze and assemble this information into a stock assessment; a report on the status of the stock and fishery conditions.  Managers use these reports to determine appropriate fishery management strategies, catch limits and other measure so ensure the health of the resource.

Fishery Dependent Data

Fishery dependent data is collected from a fisherman’s catch.  The Department requires commercial fishermen to submit trip tickets with information about their catch – what it is, where it was caught, method of catch, how much was caught, etc.  Staff also interview recreational fishermen about their catch over the phone or in-person at the dock to generate estimates for recreational catches.

Fishery Independent Data

LDWF biologists collect fishery independent data through planned scientific studies.  They conduct sampling programs, catching fish with various types of gear and recording important information about their catch.  Biologists count and measure their samples, and sometimes dissect them as well to determine age, dietary habits and spawning potential.  In some studies, biologists attach fish tags to their catch before they release them to better understand migration patterns, habitat needs, and other behavior. 

Public Input

Our management decisions are not only based on data from scientific studies and landing records – we only rely on input from the public.  Our decisions directly impact our stakeholders, so it’s important that we solicit their input as we define our management goals and strategies.  The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meetings and our regulatory process also provide and encourage opportunities for public input. 

The Department encourages public participation throughout the management process to not only ensure stakeholders’ interests are considered but also to ensure they understand the regulatory process and resulting management actions.

State Waters

In Louisiana, LDWF is responsible for managing fisheries out to 9 nautical miles. The data collected by our biologists help fishery managers and administrators make strategic management recommendations to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. The Commission gathers public input, analyzes LDWF’s recommendations and ultimately votes on how to achieve sustainable fishery management goals and objectives. Interstate commissions help coordinate management of fish stocks that cross state boundaries, gathering scientific data and organizing strategies across the member states. The Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission helps the 5 Gulf states standardize their data, manage their interjurisdictional fish stocks and make science-based management recommendations to state governors and legislatures.

Federal Waters

When anglers and commercial fishermen travel beyond state boundaries they are subject to federal regulations set forth by federal fishery managers. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries are responsible for monitoring and managing fishery resources in Gulf federal waters (from state boundaries to 200 miles offshore). The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act guides how federal fisheries are regulated and how the regional fishery management councils should operate.

Compliance and Enforcement

LDWF, NOAA Fisheries and U.S. Coast Guard enforcement agents and officers ensure fishermen are complying with the rules and regulations in place to help protect fish stocks and their habitats. They use traditional enforcement techniques such as patrols and investigations to catch violators as well as simple outreach and education to prevent illegal activities. The most common fishing violations include fishing out of season, fishing in restricted areas and exceeding catch limits.

For more information about how LDWF manages our aquatic resources, click here.