CCA Louisiana hosted their annual State Convention over the weekend at the Riverside Hilton in New Orleans. CCA members from around the state were joined by CCA staff, invited guests and conservation experts for the two day event which featured committee meetings, guest speakers and updates on conservation projects. The highlights of the convention were a keynote address by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and the induction of new members to the CCA Louisiana Hall of Fame on Friday. In addition, CCA recognized several other leaders in the ongoing effort to conserve our coast and coastal habitat.

“CCA is the ultimate volunteer organization,” said CCA Executive Director David Cresson. “Each year we like to honor special people who have helped make CCA into the organization it is today. Without their dedicated service, we would never be able to make the progress we have on conservation issues in Louisiana. I’m happy to say that the group of volunteers receiving their much deserved recognition this year is as strong a group as we’ve ever had.”

Andy LeBlanc, a resident of Jefferson Parish, was inducted into the CCA Hall of Fame. Andy is an original member of the East Jefferson CCA Chapter and has volunteered countless hours over the years to help grow the organization. LeBlanc has served on the State Board and has been a driving force in expanding the attendance and profitability of CCA banquets through his marketing and merchandising efforts.

“Andy makes things happen,” continued Cresson. “He’s done everything there is to do in CCA and our growth and success can be directly linked to his efforts.”

Suzie and Pierre Villere are the first couple to be inducted into the CCA Hall of Fame. The Villere’s were instrumental in building the North Shore CCA Chapter from its inception in 1993. Since that time they have helped build statewide membership from roughly 2,500 to over 17,000 members today. The Villere’s have both served on the State Board (Pierre is currently the longest serving member) and Suzie directed activities related to the 2nd Annual STAR Tournament and also served on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.

“There is no other couple in Louisiana that has done more for recreational fishing than the Villeres,” CCA Louisiana State President Charlie Caplinger said.

Auctioneer Charlie Willis was also inducted into the CCA Hall of Fame. For over 20 years Charlie has been working as an auctioneer at CCA membership banquets to help raise funds for the organization. In fact, Willis has raised over $10 million for CCA at over 500 CCA banquets around the state. An active Life Member, Willis has helped recruit over 50 additional Life Members to the group.

“He’s not only one of the friendliest guys you’ll ever meet, he really tries to get know the members of each chapter he visits,” Caplinger said. “Charlie is a skilled master of his audience and his efforts have allowed CCA to continue its mission of conservation and stewardship of Louisiana’s valuable marine resources.”

Camp Matens received the Albert Bankston Volunteer of the Year Award which is the highest honor given by CCA Louisiana each year. The award is given in honor of CCA Louisiana Hall of Famer Mr. Albert Bankston. Matens is an effective member of the CCA National Government Affairs Committee, the Gulf of Mexico Marine Fisheries Commission and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. He spends between 80-100 days per year volunteering his time working on fish issues.

“Camp is the cream of the crop when it comes to CCA volunteers,” CCA State Board Chairman Bob Bush said. “He spends nearly 100 days a year on the road attending fisheries meetings and CCA events. Every recreational fisherman in the state of Louisiana owes a debt of gratitude to Camp Matens.”

The 2014 Jerry Stone Conservationist of the Year Award was presented to Assistant Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Randy Pausina. Pausina’s efforts have helped lead to the amazing partnership between CCA and LDWF on an artificial reef program, and as a result, has led to more than a dozen inshore artificial reefs in the past seven years.

Along with CCA Hall of Famer Timau Claverie, he was the visionary behind the LDWF/CCA partnership in the flourishing Louisiana Cooperative Marine Fish Tagging Program. Pausina sits on both the Gulf Marine Fisheries Commission and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, and his leadership and his vision have helped to “turn the ship” in the direction of fairness towards all sectors. In fact, along with Secretary Robert Barham and the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, he led the charge to implement a Louisiana State Snapper Season in 2013, and proved that management at the State level is a more effective option than federal regulation.

“Randy is on the cutting edge of conservation and fisheries management,” Bush said. “Whether it’s implementing a fish tagging program or fighting for fair and equitable fisheries regulations, Randy is always on the front lines getting results.”

Image courtesy Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana

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