The Office of the General Counsel Enforcement Section within the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a civil monetary penalty in the amount of $62,500 to a Gretna fishing boat captain on May 14.
The civil monetary penalty stems from a joint investigation between the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and NOAA that resulted in Nam Nguyen, 52, captain of The Blue Fin, receiving citations for allegedly violating highly migratory species (HMS) regulations.
Nguyen and The Blue Fin were jointly charged to pay the $62,500 penalty for using pelagic longline gear for Atlantic HMS in federal waters with live bait and for possessing “J” hooks while possessing an HMS permit.
Agents received a complaint from NOAA Fisheries that the USCG discovered The Blue Fin fishing in federal waters with live bait while also using pelagic longline gear on March 18. LDWF agents boarded the vessel when it returned to Dulac on March 19 and found J-hooks, pelagic longline gear and three places to hold live bait.
It is illegal to fish for HMS in the Gulf of Mexico with live bait and J-hooks when using pelagic longline gear. Circle hooks and either artificial lures or dead bait can be used with a highly migratory species permit when using pelagic longline gear.
Agents seized 2,861 pounds of yellowfin tuna and a total of 623 pounds of swordfish, wahoo and escolar, pelagic longline gear and two buoys.
LDWF Agents participating in the case are Sgt. Louis Burnett, Senior Agents Dean Aucoin and Norman Deroche and Sgt. Ted Dewitt. NOAA Fisheries Special Agent Steve Campbell and USCG Ensign Zack Bowman also assisted in the case.
May 21, 2012 -- The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) dedicated a statue today, May 21, in Baton Rouge to honor those Enforcement Division agents who have died in the line of duty.
The statue depicts an LDWF Enforcement Division agent in an honor guard uniform with his head bowed honoring fallen agents. The statue sits on top of a granite pedestal that is engraved with the names of the seven LDWF agents that have been killed in the line of duty.
“Enforcement agents have a very dangerous job since they are often in remote areas by themselves without backup and sometimes at night. The training the agents receive alleviates a lot of the dangers that the job brings, but there are still a lot of instances where agents put themselves in harm’s way,” said Col. Winton Vidrine, head of the LDWF Enforcement Division. “This statue will memorialize those agents that lost their lives while upholding rules and regulations that protect Louisiana’s natural resources.”
The Louisiana Wildlife Agents Association (LWAA) purchased and donated the statue to LDWF where it will permanently stand at their headquarters building.
The following are the agents who are engraved on the pedestal and honored by the statue:
Sgt. Paul Stuckey, 47, was shot and killed when his shotgun accidentally discharged on Sept. 30, 2011. Sgt. Stuckey was responding to reports of night hunting in West Feliciana Parish at the time of the accidental discharge. Sgt. Stuckey was an 18 year veteran and is survived by his wife and three children.
Agent Jim Matkin, 30, was killed in an automobile accident while on-duty in Concordia Parish on March 2, 2005. Agent Matkin was a six year veteran and was survived by his parents, two sisters and a step-son.
Capt. John Garlington, 53, drowned while investigating a report of illegal gill net fishing on the Mill Creek Reservoir in Bienville Parish on Feb. 10, 2000. Capt. Garlington was responding to the report at approximately 3 a.m. Capt. Garlington was a 14 year veteran.
Agent Leon Henderson, 36, was killed in an accident while en route to a reported drowning in Morehouse Parish. Agent Henderson was transported to a local hospital where he died two weeks later on March 30, 1996. Agent Henderson was a 15 year veteran and was survived by his wife and daughter.
Agent Ricky Dodge, 37, was killed when his all-terrain vehicle flipped over as he was responding to a call about a game violation on Jan. 21, 1992 in Avoyelles Parish. Agent Dodge was survived by his wife, son and daughter.
Agent Kenneth Aycock, 35, drowned while on duty on July 6, 1991 in Morehouse Parish. Agent Aycock was survived by his wife and two sons.
Agent Frank Fagot, 31, was shot and killed by a poacher he was attempting to arrest on Nov. 29, 1927. Agent Fagot was survived by his wife and two children.
LDWF dates back to 1912 when it was constitutionally created as the Conservation Commission of Louisiana as a department of state government, making the Law Enforcement Division 101 years old.
LDWF and LWAA will hold a ceremony in the fall to honor those whom gave the ultimate sacrifice while performing their duties as LDWF enforcement agents.
May 17, 2013 -- Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division agents and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) officials are looking for leads regarding a whooping crane that was found shot to death in Red River Parish.
The whooping crane was found and recovered from the bank of the Red River about two miles northwest of Loggy Bayou on April 16. After a necropsy of the crane, it was determined that the bird was shot with a 6.5mm/.264 caliber projectile.
Investigators believe the bird was shot between April 10 and 14. The whooping crane was a part of LDWF's whooping crane reintroduction program and was fitted with a GPS tracking device. The last tracking point of the crane moving was on April 10 near where she was eventually found dead on April 16. The last tracking point received was on April 14 at the location she was found.
This whooping crane was released in Louisiana on March 14, 2011.
LDWF’s Operation Game Thief program, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation and the USFWS are each offering up to $1,000 in rewards for a total of up to $3,000 in rewards for any information about this illegal shooting that leads to an arrest. To report any information regarding this whooping crane shooting, please call 1-800-442-2511.
“Anytime we lose one of these cranes it sets us back in our efforts to restore the whooping crane population back to its historic levels in Louisiana,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. “These were once native birds to Louisiana and the department would like to see these cranes thrive again in the future with a sustainable population.”
USFWS Office of Law Enforcement for the Southeast Region Special Agent in Charge Luis Santiago said, "The shooting of this whooping crane is an insult to all law abiding hunters. We ask the public to please share any information that will lead us to the shooter.”
LDWF has released 40 whooping cranes since 2011 and currently have 25 whooping cranes they are tracking. This is the third whooping crane that has been found shot with the previous two having been shot in Jefferson Davis Parish in October of 2011.
The re-introduced whooping cranes came from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md., and they were placed in the coastal marsh of Vermilion Parish within LDWF’s White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area (WCA). This re-introduced population marked the first presence of whooping cranes in the wild in Louisiana since 1950.
LDWF is working cooperatively with the USFWS, USGS, the International Crane Foundation and the Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit to bring the species back to the state. This non-migratory flock of whooping cranes is designated as a non-essential, experimental population but is protected under state law, the Endangered Species Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Whooping cranes, the most endangered of all of the world’s crane species, were first added to the federal status of an endangered species on March 11, 1967.
Historically, both a resident and migratory population of whooping cranes were present in Louisiana through the early 1940s. Whooping cranes inhabited the marshes and ridges of the state’s southwest Chenier Coastal Plain, as well as the uplands of prairie terrace habitat to the north. Within this area, whooping cranes used three major habitats: tall grass prairie, freshwater marsh, and brackish/salt marsh. The Louisiana crane population was not able to withstand the pressure of human encroachment, primarily the conversion of nesting habitat to agricultural acreage, as well as hunting and specimen collection, which also occurred across North America. The last bird in southwest Louisiana was removed to a sanctuary in 1950.
The only self-sustaining wild population of whooping cranes migrates between Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Multiple efforts are underway to bring this bird further along its path to recovery. This includes increasing populations in the wild, ongoing efforts to establish a migratory population in the eastern United States, and establishing a resident population in Louisiana.
There are about 600 whooping cranes left in the world with 421 of those cranes living in the wild.
May 16, 2013 -- Louisiana is once again participating in the national "Safe Boating Week" that is scheduled for May 18-24 and signifies the beginning of the spring and summer boating season.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) will again be reminding all boaters to be safe, responsible and knowledgeable while on the water during this safe boating week. Safe Boating Week is a time for all boaters to inspect their vessels to ensure that all required safety equipment is on board and that vessels are in good working condition.
LDWF Enforcement Division agents will be out in full force as always during the week to perform boating safety checks and driving or operating a vessel while intoxicated (DWI) patrols. Each vessel should have enough personal flotation devices (PFD) on board for all occupants and a sober operator.
"Personal flotation devices are made to be worn and not sit in a vessel storage compartment. Even if you consider yourself to be a strong swimmer, we (LDWF) still encourage everyone on a boat to wear a personal flotation device whenever the boat is in motion," said LDWF Boating Safety Officer Capt. Rachel Zechenelly. “A personal flotation device on a boat should be treated the same as a seatbelt in a car, because they are both easy to use and are proven to save lives."
LDWF boating incident statistics indicate that 15 out of the 25 boating fatalities in 2012 officially listed drowning as the cause of death. LDWF regulations state that anyone 16 years of age and younger must wear a PFD while underway in vessels less than 26 foot long. For more boating and PFD regulations, please visit www.wlf.louisiana.gov/boating.
Alcohol use is another leading cause of boating crash incidents and fatalities on the water. Alcohol consumption impairs a boater's judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. Alcohol also increases fatigue and susceptibility to hypothermia. Intensifying the effects of alcohol are sun, wind, noise, vibration and movement, which are all common to boating activities.
The penalties for DWI on the water are the same as on the road. Anyone cited for a DWI on the water or on the road will lose his or her driver's license and boating privileges for the specified time ordered by the judge in the case. Also, each offense of operating a vehicle or vessel while intoxicated counts toward the total number of DWI crimes whether they happened on the water or road.
In Louisiana a DWI can be issued to anyone operating a moving vessel or vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. First offense DWI on the water or on the road carries a $300 to $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. Second offense DWI brings a $750 to $1,000 fine and between 30 days and six months in jail. Third offense DWI carries a $5,000 fine and between one and five years in jail. Again, every DWI offense is also subject to a suspension of driving a vehicle and operating a boat privileges.
"One of the best parts of our job is to see people utilize Louisiana's waterways for recreation in accordance to the boating safety regulations and return home safely to loved ones. However, the worst part of our job is to search for deceased bodies and notify family members of their loss," said LDWF Lt. Col. Jeff Mayne, the State Boating Law Administrator. "The two ways to make boating safe, fun and a memorable experience is to have a sober operator and to have everyone wear a personal flotation device when the vessel is underway."
LDWF also wants to remind anybody born after Jan. 1, 1984 that they are required to successfully complete a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) boating education course to operate a motorboat over 10 horsepower. LDWF offers these classes free of charge statewide. For a list of courses, please visit www.wlf.louisiana.gov/boating/courses.
May 10, 2013 -- The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is sponsoring two summer day camps for children 12 to 16 years old at the Waddill Outdoor Education Center in Baton Rouge this summer.
The camps will be held from June 24-28 and again from July 15-19. Each camp is completely free of charge and will allow participants to receive their official boater and hunter education certifications.
LDWF will also offer a fish identification class, fishing and canoeing in the ponds at the Waddill Outdoor Education Center, skeet shooting, and other outdoor related classes and activities.
"These camps provide a lot of time for learning classroom material that the children then get a chance to utilize with hands on activities immediately outside later that same day,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. “For a week, parents have the chance to let their kids become sportsmen and women in a safe, supervised environment.”
LDWF is providing a daily lunch free of charge for the five-day summer camps. Cabela's in Gonzales also donated rod and reel combos for each child that they can take home at the end of the camp. The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation and the Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana are each providing two lifetime hunting and fishing combo licenses that will be given to four of the participants.
The camps are open to 25 children per camp who have not completed a boater or hunter education certificate.
To register for the camps, parents must fill out the online application located at www.wlf.louisiana.gov/summerdaycamp by May 31. Parents must fill out a separate application for each child they wish to register and may only register their child for one of the camps.
Since the main goal of these camps is to introduce and teach kids about the outdoors, LDWF will choose the 25 kids for each camp based on the child’s lack of experience with fishing, boating and hunting. LDWF will notify parents by either email or phone if their child has been selected for the camps.
“We want to teach children how much fun and exciting it can be by spending time outside enjoying all that Louisiana has to offer,” said Secretary Barham. “These camps also get the kids out of the house away from their video games and computers for a week during their summer break. They will catch some fish, paddle canoes and shoot skeet and for some this might be their first time ever doing any of these activities.”
Parents with children that have been selected for either camp, must drop off their child at the Waddill Outdoor Education Center located at 4142 North Flannery Rd., Baton Rouge, LA 70814 between 7 and 8 a.m., and then pick their child up between 4 and 5 p.m. each day. Attendance every day of the week is mandatory in order to receive the boating and hunting education certifications.
The boating education course is mandatory for anybody born after Jan. 1, 1984 and proof of completion of the course is necessary to operate a motorboat in excess of 10 horsepower. The course includes information on choosing a boat, classification, hulls, motors, legal requirements and equipment requirements. The course also covers many navigation rules and charts, trailering, sailboats, canoeing, personal watercraft and more. Completion of the course will result in the student being issued a vessel operators certification card.
The hunter education course is mandatory for anyone born on or after Sept. 1, 1969, who plans on purchasing a hunting license. The hunter education curriculum includes sections on ethics and responsibility, wildlife management, firearms and ammunition, safety in the field, wildlife identification and wildlife conservation. The major objectives of the hunter education programs are to reduce the number of hunting accidents, improve the image of hunting through ethical and responsible conduct and promote the shooting sports.
The Louisiana Environmental Literacy Plan Sub-Committee is pleased to announce the release of the DRAFT Louisiana Environmental Literacy Plan (ELP) for public comment. The draft ELP is attached and is also posted on the Louisiana Environmental Education Commission’s website at http://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/environmental-education-commission. The ELP Sub-Committee will accept public comments on the draft plan until May 31, 2013. Comments are to be sent to Venise Ortego at email@example.com.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is now offering LADWF Tips apps for both Android and iPhone users to report outdoor related violations to Enforcement Division agents through their tip411 program.
LDWF's tip411 program is a part of their Operation Game Thief program, which may offer a cash reward for information leading to arrests or convictions.
“We unveiled the LADWF Tips app for iPhones in 2011 and it has shown to be very useful and has helped make a number of cases that have led to arrests and convictions,” said LDWF Col. Winton Vidrine, head of the Enforcement Division. “We are pleased to announce that we now have an Android app that will reach a larger percentage of people that can now report wildlife violations.”
Users can download the LADWF Tips iPhone and Android apps from iTunes or Google Play store free of charge. Citizens can also send an anonymous tip to LDWF by texting LADWF and their tip to 847411.
Texting or downloading the apps enables the public to send anonymous tips to LDWF and lets LDWF respond back, creating a two-way anonymous “chat”. Users of the app or texters can also send in photos to help support their claim and be used as evidence.
CitizenObserver, the tip411 provider, uses technology that removes all identifying information before LDWF receives the text.
"We’re proud to make this technology available to our citizens free of charge. This tip411 program will help our citizens play an active role in helping us enforce current conservation rules and regulations," said Col. Vidrine. "This program will engage younger folks in the process and it will save our agency time and resources."
LDWF will monitor the tip411 program for incoming tips 24 hours a day.
LDWF also offers their Operation Game Thief 24 hour toll free hotline. Citizens can anonymously report tips by calling 1-800-442-2511 24 hours a day.
CitizenObserver was founded in 2000 and provides web based alerting tools to law enforcement, education and public safety agencies in over 40 states.