FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 20, 2019
(PDF - click here)
Council Recognizes USCG Cutter Cormorant Crew for Fisheries Enforcement Efforts
Annual Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award presented at September meeting
Charleston, SC- Each year the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council presents its Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award to recognize enforcement personnel that exceed their duty requirements to enforce fisheries regulations in federal waters off the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia and the east coast of Florida. “The Council recognizes the important role that law enforcement personnel play in effective fisheries management,” said Council Chair Jessica McCawley. “Both at the state and federal level, enforcement officers not only enforce fisheries regulations but often act as ambassadors, providing information and educating fishermen and others on a daily basis. This annual award allows us to acknowledge those who go the extra mile – those who demonstrate teamwork, effective communication with the public, excellence and innovation, leadership, and conduct that reflects honesty and fairness.”
For the first time, this year’s award was presented not to an individual but to the twelve active duty crew members of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter CORMORANT, an 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boat homeported in Charleston, South Carolina. The crew, consisting of four Boarding Officers, two Boarding Team Members, and two Living Marine Resource boarding officers, exemplify the criteria outlined for the award. The crew conducts a wide array of enforcement missions including search and rescue, counter narcotics, migrant interdiction, and Presidential security zones, as well as living marine resources enforcement and commercial fishing vessel inspections from Little River, South Carolina to Cumberland Island, Georgia. The award was made during the Council’s quarterly meeting this week in Charleston.
The CORMORANT is one of a handful of units primarily dedicated to fisheries enforcement. The crew routinely performs boardings of vessels between 10-120 nautical miles offshore, prioritizing education of safety requirements and establishing positive relationships with fishing fleets. During 2018, the crew completed 43 commercial fishing vessel boardings resulting in the issuance of eleven violations, four fisheries violation, and one Captain of the Port ordered termination of a commercial fishing vessel. Working in close coordination with NOAA Fisheries Office of Law
Enforcement, the Cormorant issued two major fisheries violations, resulting in a citation for over 800 pounds of illegally caught black sea bass and a second case involving the crew of a fishing vessel attempting to destroy evidence before the boarding team embarked the vessel. The crew recovered 21 out-of-season fish from the water including snowy grouper and wreckfish. NOAA is currently pursuing criminal charges in the case.
“The recognition of the Coast Guard Cutter CORMORANT’s outstanding work by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council highlights the Coast Guard’s continued commitment to, and the value of, at-sea enforcement of fisheries regulations, in order to preserve our vital marine resources.” said Captain John Reed, Commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector Charleston.
In addition to making fisheries cases, true to her moto of “Always Ready”, the crew responded to a late-night call for assistance from a disabled fishing vessel 90 miles offshore and towed the vessel to safe harbor. “The CORMORANT’s willingness to go beyond the call of duty has resulted in impressive operational successes and increased local awareness of both safety and fishery regulations,” explained Lieutenant Junior Grade Pat O’Shaughnessy, Commander of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter CORMORANT.
"It is an incredible honor to be recognized by the members of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. The crew of Coast Guard Cutter CORMORANT works tirelessly to ensure both a safe and sustainable domestic fishery. We have the unique responsibility of enforcing federal regulations while also remaining continuously prepared to offer assistance to our maritime partners in the fishing industry whenever the need arises,” said O’Shaughnessy.
Nominees for the Council’s annual Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award may be submitted from each of the southeastern state law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard, and NOAA Fisheries. Additional nominees for the 2018 award included Jason Richards and Jeremy Foell with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement for their work on the Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Trident in the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas, and to Thomas Buckhannon, Conservation Officer with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Office for his exemplary work during his first full year as an officer.