Jeremy Alford

Sport-fishing lobby elects new leadership

by Jeremy Alford

The largest special interest group in the state dedicated to recreational fishing issues has elected Bob Bush of Lake Charles as its new chairman. The Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana has several thousand members statewide and is a local affiliate to a national group that lobbies both Congress and the White House. Bush, an insurance executive, succeeds long-time chairman Jack Lawton. He describes himself as an avid fisherman who has been active in marine conservation issues for most of his adult life.

In many respects, Bush’s election as chairman represents a clean slate for CCA when it comes to top leadership. After 15 years as executive director, Jeff Angers also stepped down last year. He has since been replaced by David Cresson of Baton Rouge, who previously served as the CEO of the Our Lady of the Lake Foundation.

Bush says the overriding goal would be to continue advancing CCA’s agenda for responsible stewardship of Louisiana’s marine resources and to build on the momentum that has piled up over the past two decades. There are, however, specific goals for the new chairman. “We are committed to working with our newly-elected state officials to tackle important issues,” he says, “such as coastal erosion, preserving our fisheries and helping the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries secure proper funding.”

Bush also says he wants CCA to maintain its stable of volunteers, which are dispatched for “many proactive ventures,” and to continue raising money to build new reef and fishing structures.

More than anything else, CCA is largely credited with redefining how fisheries issues could be lobbied at the State Capitol. Its success is derived chiefly from its grassroots structure – over the past decade, membership in local chapters have tripled while statewide rolls have increased more than sevenfold. Founded in 1983, CCA has been instrumental in banning gill nets in state waters; limiting commercial speckled trout fishing to a rod and reel; and establishing redfish as a gamefish. All of the issues were at odds with commercial interests, but nonetheless established CCA as a force to be reckoned with.

Aside from Bush’s election at the CCA State Convention in Lafayette earlier this month, the membership also tapped Gus Schram III of Lake Charles as president-elect. Schram will become president when the term of current President Chris Harbuck of Shreveport expires in December.

Locally, Bill Blanchet of Lafayette will continue as treasurer of CCA and Kevin Bankston of Baton Rouge will continue to serve as secretary.