Commission approves live, wild-caught baitfish transport ban
LITTLE ROCK—The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission unanimously voted to ban the transportation of live, wild-caught baitfish from one water body to other watersheds in an attempt to prevent the spread of invasive species, such as Asian carp and zebra mussels at last Wednesday’s regularly scheduled meeting.
After listening to public comments, the Commission decided to delay the regulation’s effective date until Oct. 1, 2018, to enable commercial baitfish producers time to grow shad large enough to fill the needs of striped bass guides in the state.
Beginning on that date next year, it will be illegal to use any live baitfish, including crayfish, unless it was:
• Caught within the same body of water where it is being used,
• Caught in a tributary entering upstream of the water body where it is being used (no baitfish would be allowed to move upstream past a dam or barrier that prohibits the normal passage of fish) or
• Purchased from a licensed dealer selling only certified farm-raised baitfish.
Commissioner Ken Reeves said he felt that the delay in the effective date would satisfy the majority of complaints the Commission has heard from the public.
“Almost every concern I’ve heard from striped bass guides and the general public is the timing of the regulation and not enough time for commercial growers to produce shad at the desired length to provide a reasonable alternative,” Reeves said. “This feels like a good compromise while still making the needed regulation to help prevent Asian carp from moving to new places in the state.”
AGFC Chief of Fisheries Chris Racey thanked the Commission for its support in protecting Arkansas from aquatic nuisance species, and said this step is not only important for the current issue concerning Asian carp, but will help prevent the spread of other species as well.
“Aquatic nuisance species are a serious concern and this regulation establishes a baseline to help protect our state’s waters from any future invasive species as well as silver carp.”
The Commission also signed a resolution formally supporting the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources. The panel represents the outdoor recreation retail and manufacturing sector, the energy industry and conservation organizations and sportsmen’s groups. Their recommendations and Congressional policy options have suggested a new model to help fund conservation of nongame wildlife using existing revenue from the development of energy and mineral resources on federal lands and waters.
In other business, the Commission:
• Authorized AGFC Director Jeff Crow to complete a memorandum of agreement with the city of Jonesboro to partner in the development of a state-of-the-art shooting complex that will include shotgun, rifle, handgun and archery ranges. The Commission will provide reimbursement to the city through federal grant funds not to exceed $2 million for development and construction of the project.
• Heard a report from AGFC Waterfowl Biologist Luke Naylor on the final 2016 waterfowl harvest numbers and 2017 Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey.
• Approved a regulation clarifying that the new Wildlife Management Area General Use Permit is not required for private land inholdings within WMAs and is required only for hunting and trapping on WMAs.
• Approved the removal of outdated and obsolete inventory with an original cost of $754,601 and a current net book value of $31,993.
• Approved the demolition and removal of the Aquatic Resource Education office facility on Joe Hogan State Fish Hatchery in Lonoke to make room for a new facility in the same location that will better accommodate this growing program.
• Approved the removal of the building Hampton Waterfowl Research Facility on Bayou Meto WMA. An agency facility carrying the Hampton name will be designed and constructed at this location in the future.
• Authorized four projects eligible for funding from the Marine Fuel Tax program—De Queen Lake access on Story Creek Road in Sevier County for $75,000; chip and seal 1.5 miles of the Old Factory Site Access Road to the Little Missouri River in Pike County for $100,000; begin Phase 1 of repairs to 3.9 miles of Laurel Creek Access Road in Pike County for $100,000; and repair work on Younger Access Road leading to the White River in Stone County for $265,000.
• Approved amendments to Commission committee procedures to create an Intergovernmental Relations Committee and increase transparency on Commission actions.