“Federal fisheries enforcement is our passion. For 25 years I have loved working in resource protection. I love going to work.”
Those were the words from Master Officer Clay McDonough with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as both he and Officer Specialist Chris Demeter accepted the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. The annual award was presented to the two officers for their teamwork in supporting the enforcement of federal fisheries onboard the Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Osprey, homeported in Titusville, Florida. The Council presented the award during their quarterly meeting in Charleston, SC. (header photo: L-R Officer Chris Demeter, Council Chair Mel Bell, and Master Officer Clay McDonough)
The Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award is presented to individuals or teams that have exceeded, above and beyond, the duty requirements expected, exemplified the virtues of professionalism and dedication, and demonstrated a distinct pattern of service to enforcing fisheries regulations in the South Atlantic region. Officer McDonough was the first recipient of the award in 2010 when he was acknowledged for his work with the FWC coastal squad in Volusia County and participation in the Federal Joint Enforcement Agreement.
Officer McDonough has served for 23 years and as the Operator in Charge of the Osprey for the past 9 years. Officer Demeter has been with FWC for 8 years and on the Osprey for 6 years. “In our position, this is the best award we could receive,” said Officer Demeter. “Offshore fisheries is truly a passion for me and I am grateful to our boss Lt. Bryan Lee for the nomination and to my partner Clay for mentoring me over the years.”
According to LT Lee, McDonough and Demeter are responsible for every aspect of the OPV Osprey, from managing the budget and performing maintenance, to coordinating and running multi-agency details. “Since they have full control of the budget the crew does most of the maintenance and repairs themselves to save money that can be spent on fuel to increase patrols,” explained LT Lee. In 2021, the Osprey exceeded required patrol hours by 27% while coming in under budget by 17%.
The Osprey crew coordinates joint patrols with partner agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and NOAA Office for Law Enforcement. The Osprey patrol efforts generated 14 Federal cases containing 136 Federal citations in an equal mix of commercial, charter, and private recreational cases.
Both Officer McDonough and Officer Demeter were recently recognized by FWC for their work in using stealth techniques and speed to surprise fishing vessels in the act of destroying or hiding illegal saltwater products by throwing them overboard. The fish were recovered and secured as evidence. In a similar fashion, the officers also recently surprised a boat of poachers actively filleting illegal fish, again confiscating evidence crucial to the prosecution.
The Osprey crew are also Field Training Officers and enthusiastically share their knowledge of federal fisheries with new officers. They are subject matter experts and conduct annual training events focused on federal fisheries enforcement. “The relationships they build with patrol officers and partner agencies have created a culture of cooperation that will advance marine resource protection efforts for years to come,” explained LT Lee.
Officer McDonough put it simply:
“It’s just great doing a job that you love to do.”