2008 Alligator Gar Working Group Meeting Summary

The 2008 Alligator Gar Working Group Meeting at the JeanLafitteCenter in Thibodaux, LA (21-22 February 2008) was a huge success! More than 60 people attended the meeting and social. Participants included bowfishing guides, state and federal biologists, a commercial angler, a commercial producer, university faculty members, and undergraduate and graduate students. The program included nineteen speakers presenting a range of topics from genetics to telemetry to feed trials. Invited speakers and guests from Monterrey and Villahermosa, Mexico, shared the results of their many years of experience working with alligator gar and tropical gar. Local artists, Janie Luster, Ivy Billiot, and Roy Parfait displayed and sold their artwork during the meeting.

On Thursday evening we were entertained by the sounds of Treater and we consumed 250 lbs. of boiled crawfish and 500 Gold Band oysters (donated by Motivatit Seafood). Many participants joined Treater on stage to sing and play the scrub board. The evening wrapped-up with a second line around the barn at the Nicholls farm.

On Friday, the Working Group voted to hold the 2009 Working Group meeting as a special session within the 2009 Spring Meeting of the Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society (SDAFS) in New Orleans, LA, 15-18 January 2009. Additionally, the Working Group will host an aging workshop at the 2009 Spring Meeting for all gar species. The Working Group voted to become an official organization and elected Ricky Campbell from the Private John Allen National Fish Hatchery, Tupelo, MS to serve as Chair and Lee Holt from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Brinkley, AR to serve as Co-Chair. The prospect of the Working Group becoming a sub-section, chapter, or technical committee under the SDAFS and/or the International Network for Lepisosteid Fish Research and Management was discussed. No decision was reached because the feasibility of US federal biologists joining the International Network must first be explored. Changing the name of the Alligator Gar Working Group to include all species of gar was also discussed but no decision was reached.

Many thanks are extended to the many supporters and volunteers that assisted with the meeting. Much of the funding for the meeting was supplied by Golden Ranch Plantation. Support was provided by Nicholls State University (NSU), NSU Department of Biological Sciences, the Bayousphere Research Lab at NSU, NSU Biology Society, NSU Agriculture Club, Motivatit Seafood, the International Network for Lepisosteid Fish Research and Management, and the Louisiana Chapter of the American Fisheries Society.

Following the Working Group meeting, Quenton Fontenot attended the 2008 Spring Meeting of the SDAFS in Wheeling, WV. During the SDAFS Executive Committee meeting he presented a summary of the Alligator Gar Working Group activities and expressed the Working Group's interest in becoming officially recognized by the SDAFS. As a result and with the approval of Ricky Campbell and Lee Holt, the Alligator Gar Working Group is currently an ad hoc technical committee of SDAFS. The status of the ad hoc Alligator Gar Technical Committee will be up for approval by the Executive Committee at the 2009 SDAFS meeting. In 2010 the Alligator Gar Technical Committee may apply for permanent technical committee status.

In summary of next year's events at the 2009 SDAFS Spring Meeting in New Orleans, the 2009 ad hoc Alligator Gar Technical Committee meeting will be held on 15 January 2009. An aging workshop for all gar species will be held on 16 January 2009, and a special session on gar research and biology will be held on 17 January 2009.

As a result of conversations and e-mail messages with Ricky Campbell, Lee Holt, and Quenton Fontenot, we held a vote, in early March 2008, to change our organization's title. Members of our organization may choose to become members of the SDAFS Alligator Gar Technical Committee. The SDAFS Alligator Gar Technical Committee is part of our organization but we feel that only naming alligator gar in our organization's title excludes the research and concerns of individuals that work with other species of gar. In many areas, other species of gar are used as models or surrogates due to the scarcity of alligator gar. Additionally, research and concerns over population status of other gar species in states and Canadian provinces outside of the range of alligator gar may be excluded from our purview if our organization's title only includes alligator gar. The new name of our organization is the Lepisosteid Research and Management Committee.