CAMERON PARISH, LA (KPLC) - The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has closed a portion of Rockefeller State Wildlife Refuge as a result of litter problems created by recreational fishermen.
The water management control structure in Cameron Parish, also known locally as Mud Hole, will be closed to the public until further notice.
"We had to close it down because the bycatch has accumulated to the point of it being a public health concern," said Brac Salyers, a biologist supervisor for LDWF.
LDWF officials have picked up three trash bags full of bycatch and other trash in the last week.
"There were rotting fish carcasses, crab carcasses, a lot of cigarette cartons, a lot of Gatorade bottles, and crab strings," Salyers said.
Wildlife officials said littering is a problem at almost all recreation areas in the refuge.
"It is one of our rules on the refuge that when you come cast netting you must return your bycatch to the water," Salyers said.
LDWF plans to increase enforcement and begin writing citations for anyone caught littering in the recreational areas.
"We do have under cover guys that will come out to watch people and look for illegal activity of any kind," Salyers said.
LDWF officials said that the consequences would be greater than just a citation for the visitor that gets caught.
"When the trash accumulates to this point, it's impacting the birds, the alligators, the fisheries, and the water quality," Salyers said. "We want the public to come and enjoy these areas, but we ask that you help us keep it clean. Otherwise we can't keep these places open."
The Mud Hole will remain closed for at least a couple of weeks. Wildlife officials do plan to have the area re-opened by White Shrimp season.