On Sept. 9, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) agents cited three men for alleged commercial tuna violations in Plaquemines Parish.
While on a Joint Enforcement Agreement (JEA) patrol in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, LDWF agents made contact with James A. Gerakines, 41, and Charles Updegraff, 52, both of Chalmette, and Perry Menesses, 58, of St. Bernard. The men were on the commercial fishing vessel “Jasmine” in the area of Tiger Pass located in Venice.
During a federal fish inspection the men were found to be in possession of numerous skipjack and yellowfin tuna. After a lengthy investigation agents determined that Gerakines intended to sell the tuna upon return to Venice.
When the investigation was completed agents determined no federal commercial highly migratory species (HMS) permit was on board or issued for the vessel in question or captain and of the eight yellowfin tuna on board six were under the minimum size limit of 27 inches.
All three men were charged with failing to comply with taking or possessing tuna without the required commercial HMS permit and taking or possessing under sized yellowfin tuna. Each of the two charges carries up to a $350 fine and 60 days in jail.
Additionally the men face civil restitution charges for the illegally taken tuna totaling $1,290.20. Agents seized a total of 285 pounds of tuna and donated it to a local homeless shelter.
Agents participating in the case are Sgts. Adam Young and Villere Reggio.
A Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division agent rescued eight people from the Gulf of Mexico on Sept. 6 in Vermilion Parish.
Sgt. Nicholas Guillory received a call from dispatch around 1 p.m. on Sept. 6 of a vessel that recently launched at Rollover Landing near Pecan Island taking on water. He made contact with the vessel occupants who said they travelled south in Rollover Bayou and were in the Gulf of Mexico when a storm kicked up producing high seas and lots of wind.
Sgt. Guillory was able to get to the location where Rollover Bayou met the Gulf of Mexico in the pouring rain when he spotted one individual in the mud up to his waist. He was able to pull him from the mud and get him in his boat.
Sgt. Guillory then noticed two other individuals in a vessel that was taking on water and managed to get those two in his boat. He also towed their boat safely back to the inside part of the canal and out of the rough seas of the Gulf of Mexico.
Knowing that the three individuals he brought safely to the inside waters were not the original people that needed help, Sgt. Guillory went back into the Gulf of Mexico. He traveled about a mile west and found two more vessels in trouble. One of the vessels was completely beached and the other was completely under water.
Sgt. Guillory was able to grab two of the individuals from the sunken vessel and put them in his vessel. The three people from the beached vessel were on the beach.
Sgt. Guillory then hooked his vessel up to the beached vessel and was able to pull the vessel back into the water. The vessel started up and he put two of the people on land in that vessel. Sgt. Guillory then towed the sunken vessel to a position to get enough water out so that it could float enough to be towed to inside waters. The last person on shore got in Sgt. Guillory’s vessel.
In total Sgt. Guillory was able to rescue eight people and recover three vessels safely and get them back to the boat launch in Rollover Bayou.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Enforcement Division agents arrested a Ponchatoula man for alleged operating or driving a vessel while intoxicated (DWI) fourth offense on Sept. 5 in Tangipahoa Parish.
Agents arrested Matthew B. Saltzman, 42, for fourth offense DWI, flight from an officer, simple escape, resisting arrest, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, operating a watercraft under a suspended license and three boating safety violations.
Agents were on patrol in South Pass located in Manchac around 10 p.m. on Sept. 5 when a vessel with no running lights passed them.
Agents were able to stop the vessel and since they suspected all four on board to be impaired towed the vessel about 400 yards to a fuel dock to perform field sobriety test on Saltzman. After the field sobriety test, Saltzman jumped into the water and escaped arrest.
On Sept. 6 agents received information that Saltzman may be at a camp on South Pass. The owner of the camp, who is Saltzman’s uncle, went inside and found Saltzman in his bathroom with a rifle. Family members were able to talk Saltzman into surrendering unarmed. Agents detained Saltzman at that time and turned him into the Tangipahoa Parish Prison.
Fourth offense DWI brings up to a $5,000 fine and 10 to 30 years in jail. Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon carries a $1,000 to $5,000 fine and 10 to 20 years in jail. Flight from an officer carries a $150 to $500 fine and up to six months in jail. Simple escape brings six months to one year in jail. Resisting arrest and operating a vessel with a suspended license each carries up to a $500 fine and six months in jail. The three boating safety violations each bring up to a $50 fine and 15 days in jail.
Agents participating in the case are Capt. Len Yokum, and Senior Agents Brody Roberts and Doug Danna.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) awarded five people with Citizens Meritorious Service Awards at a Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting in Baton Rouge on Sept. 3.
LDWF honored Paul L. Page, 17, of Bogalusa, Diane Leach, 34, of Covington, Timothy Rodosta, 42, of Covington, Chad Thompson, and A. J. Holmes, for helping save three children following a boating incident in the Pearl River Navigational Canal on March 28 in St. Tammany Parish. The mother of the three children, Jonie Morgan, 31, of Folsom, and her boyfriend, Terry O’Keefe Jr., 41, of Folsom, passed away as a result of the incident.
“We are here today to recognize five individuals for their actions that resulted in saving the lives of three young children,” said Lt. Col. Sammy Martin, the state’s boating law administrator. “All five individuals involved exhibited leadership, good judgment, and discipline. All five people should be recognized for their heroic actions during a tragic event.”
Morgan and O’Keefe Jr., with eight and six year old boys and a five year old girl pushed off from the bank of the Pearl River Canal up river of a low head damn (sill) in a 14 foot vessel shortly after 5 p.m. on March 28. Unable to start the motor their vessel drifted to the sill and capsized putting all five occupants into the water.
Page came upon the scene and saw two boys, one girl and Morgan in the water near their capsized vessel. While trying to help, his vessel also capsized sending him into the water. While in the water, Page was able to grab onto the two boys while Morgan was holding her five year old daughter.
Page then spotted a vessel with Leach and Rodosta on board waved them over to help and when he looked back Morgan and her five year old daughter had disappeared. Leach and Rodosta were able to get Page and the two boys into their vessel and safely onto shore.
LDWF Enforcement Agents Sgt. Keith Francis and Senior Agent Joel Cromp arrived on scene at the upstream side of the sill. While the agents were interviewing witnesses near the sill, the five year old girl floated out from under the capsized vessel.
Agents noticed a vessel on the downstream side operated by Thompson and Holmes and directed them to the girl’s position. Thompson and Holmes were able to pull the girl from the water and bring her safely to shore.
All three children and Page were wearing personal flotation devices and are in good health. Search and rescue crews found the body of O’Keefe Jr. on March 29 and Morgan on April 1. O’Keefe Jr. and Morgan were not wearing PFDs.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division agents arrested six subjects on board two vessels for alleged oyster violations in St. Bernard Parish on Aug. 28.
Agents arrested Glenn J. Cascio Sr., 54, and Glenn J. Cascio Jr., 35, both of St. Bernard, from one vessel and Baron T. Navarro, 40, of Mereaux, Sotelo A. Galdino, 36, of Seabrook, Texas, Rigoberto Badillo-Gomez, 38, Mereaux, and Jose Camalgo, 18, of of Seabrook, Texas, from another vessel for taking oysters during a closed season. Navarro was also cited for failing to comply with refrigeration requirements.
Due to numerous complaints of illegal oyster harvesting on the State Seed Grounds in Drum Bay, agents set up surveillance nearby and at 3:30 p.m. observed two oyster vessels enter the area and begin dredging. The Drum Bay public grounds are currently closed to all oyster harvesting.
Agents stopped both vessels and found each to have loose oysters on their decks and in their dredges. Agents seized all four dredges and a total of 136 sacks of oysters, which were returned to the water.
All men were booked into the St. Bernard Parish Jail.
Taking oysters during a closed season brings a $900 to $950 fine and up to 120 days in jail. Any person convicted of this violation may only harvest oysters from a vessel that employs a vessel monitoring system monitored by LDWF for a period of one year. Failing to comply with refrigeration requirements carries a $400 to $950 fine and up to 120 days in jail.
Agents participating in the case are Capt. Stephen McManus, Lt. Scot Keller, Sgts. Keith Francis, Adam Young, Mike Garrity and Villere Reggio, Agent Jason Gernados and Senior Agent Richard Clark.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division agents cited five men for failing to comply with scenic river regulations on Aug. 22 in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Agents cited Joe Baggett, 36, Dylan Boyd, 21, Kevin Rothman, 35, Micah Boyd, 46, and Dustin Boyd, 25, all of Denham Springs for riding vehicles in the Comite River just south of Zachary.
Agents have received several complaints over the summer of people riding vehicles in this scenic river and have increased their patrol efforts in the area. Agents found Bagget in a Suzuki Samauri and the four other men in some sort of all-terrain vehicle riding down the Comite River around 12:45 p.m.
Scenic river regulations prohibit the use of a motor vehicle or other wheeled or tracked vehicle on a designated system stream, except for permitted uses and direct crossings by immediately adjacent landowners, lessees, and persons who have written permission from the landowner for non-commercial activities that do not significantly degrade the ecological integrity of the stream.
Violators of the scenic river rules face a $250 to $500 fine and up to six months of jail time.
Agents involved in the case are Lt. Will Roberts, Sgt. Carl Armstrong, Agent Max Wilkinson and Agent Hunter Pearson.
The Louisiana Scenic Rivers Act of 1970 provides LDWF the authority to regulate those activities that may directly and significantly degrade the ecological integrity of a natural and scenic river. The Louisiana Legislature created the Louisiana Natural and Scenic Rivers System for the purpose of preserving, protecting, developing, reclaiming, and enhancing the wilderness qualities, scenic beauties, and ecological regimes of certain free-flowing Louisiana streams. Today, there are approximately 3,000 miles of designated Natural and Scenic Rivers in the state.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ (LDWF) Law Enforcement Division will begin training up to 24 cadets in December of 2015 to bolster the ranks of agents in the field.
The cadets will train at the department’s training facility housed within the Waddill Outdoor Education Center in Baton Rouge. Successful completion of six months of intensive physical and academic training is required to graduate.
The opening dates that applications will be accepted for the “Wildlife Enforcement Cadet” position will be from Aug. 24 to Sept. 9.
“An LDWF enforcement agent has a tremendous responsibility, protecting Louisiana’s rich natural resources, and those who enjoy those resources, whether in the field or on the water,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. “And those responsibilities extend to response efforts during natural disasters when citizens need assistance in impacted areas.”
At the academy, cadets train to enforce the state's recreational boating laws, the state and federal wildlife and fisheries laws, and general law enforcement work on the state's many wildlife management areas. The academy also covers general law enforcement training required for all state law enforcement officers.
Agents are additionally trained for search and rescue and serve as the lead responders in search and rescue coordination under the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
“We are looking for men and women who have a love for the outdoors, want to enforce conservation laws and can make it through a demanding six months of training,” said LDWF Col. Joey Broussard, head of the Law Enforcement Division.
This class of graduating agents will fill field office vacancies around the state. Each cadet is assigned to a parish and must reside in that parish upon completion of the academy.
Interested applicants can apply online through the Department of Civil Service website and must complete the LEAPS test to qualify for consideration. Please visit the civil service website at http://www.civilservice.louisiana.gov/ for “Wildlife Enforcement Cadet” position and LEAPS testing application information.
LDWF is charged with managing, conserving, and promoting wise utilization of Louisiana's renewable fish and wildlife resources and their supporting habitats through replenishment, protection, enhancement, research, development, and education for the social and economic benefit of current and future generations; to provide opportunities for knowledge of and use and enjoyment of these resources; and to promote a safe and healthy environment for the users of the resources.