Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery: Cane River Lake Statement

Attributed to Brett Hortman, manager, Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery

Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery is the only federal hatchery located in Louisiana and relies solely on the Cane River as its water source.  The hatchery is responsible for propagation and release of sportfish and threatened and endangered species protected under the Endangered Species Act.  Pumping without the filter could dramatically impact hatchery operations. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to actions that ensure safe water quality for wildlife and humans.  The Service does not support any operation that is incongruent with the Cooperative Use Authorization guidelines set forth by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.  

For additional context, operating the pump without the suggested 40-micron filter would dramatically increase the chance of infesting the Cane River with the invasive zebra mussel and invasive carp. The zebra mussels and carp filter-feed removing vast quantities of nutrients that are important to the Cane River and thus the hatchery.  

Pumping from a known source of water that contains invasive species would significantly and permanently change the way the Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery operates and what and how many fish and aquatic species it can produce for the residents of Louisiana. 

For example, staff at the facility rear ESA-listed species such as the Louisiana pearlshell, a freshwater mussel propagated nowhere else and found in only two parishes in Louisiana. The endangered inflated heelsplitter, another freshwater mussel, and gopher tortoise are being raised at the facility. Equally important to the residents of Louisiana and surrounding states are the alligator snapping turtle, paddlefish and Gulf Coast striped bass.  

Additionally, the hatchery produces highly prized sports fish for Louisianians:  largemouth bass, redear sunfish, bluegill, channel catfish and hybrid striped bass.  These programs may be terminated or production numbers may be significantly reduced if exotic zebra mussels and invasive carp silver carp from Asia infest the Cane River and Hatchery because the Service cannot knowingly transport or stock fish or other species that are infected or exposed to waters with exotic invasive species. This could deprive Louisiana residents, tourists, and other surrounding states fishing access to these highly prized sportfish.