Acreage: 76,664 Acres
Owned: State of Louisiana
Parish: Iberia Parish
Office: New Iberia
2415 Darnall Road
New Iberia, LA 70506
Marsh Island Wildlife Refuge, owned and operated by the state of Louisiana, is located between Vermilion Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Although the island was 76,664 acres when originally deeded, current acreages are closer to 70,000 due to erosion. The refuge is generally composed of brackish marsh types, is virtually treeless, and very flat.
Marsh Island is very important as wintering grounds for blue and snow geese. Recently, 30,000 geese and 50,000 ducks have been documented using the refuge.
Besides waterfowl, Marsh Island's major commercially important inhabitants are alligators, fisheries, and furbearers. Commercial harvests of shrimp in Vermilion Bay and the gulf, as well as recreational harvests on the refuge, are due to shrimp utilization of Marsh Island as a nursery ground. Post-larval shrimp migrate into the marshes in the spring and summer, grow and thrive in the marsh, then migrate out in late summer and fall. White-tailed deer are also common on the refuge, despite being severely curtailed by Hurricane Audrey in 1957. Shorebirds and wading birds round out the wide array of wildlife inhabiting the island.
Extensive development on Marsh Island has helped improve habitat conditions on the area. Two water management units completed in 1993 put 2,700 acres under intensive management. These units were designed to revegetate lost and/or deteriorated marsh. Two larger management units totaling about 8,000 acres on the south side of the island are managed via 8-barrel variablecrest flapgated structures. Draw-downs in the management units help revegetate lost marsh and promote growth of prime emergent waterfowl foods, which increases utilization by wintering waterfowl. Numerous low sill dams are also in place throughout the remainder of the island to stabilize water levels and promote growth of submerged aquatics such as wigeongrass. Habitat for nesting shorebirds has also been created on Marsh Island in the form of two shorebird nesting islands built using filter cloth topped with shell.
Technical management and research expertise is provided by one on-site biologist and others stationed in New Iberia. Major topics of research at Marsh Island are alligator harvests and population dynamics, brackish marsh ecology, soil salinity studies, and intense monitoring of effects of new water management techniques. Rigid enforcement of rules and regulations and maintenance of facilities is accomplished by on-site enforcement and maintenance personnel.
Marsh Island is a very popular recreational fishing and shrimping location. This is reflected in about 30,000 annual man-days of recreation on the refuge.