Each year, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council recognizes the importance of law enforcement in federal fisheries management by presenting the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award. This year, two nominees were selected to receive the award. Private First-Class Jason Dozier with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Game Warden First Class Matt Tsiklistas with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources were presented the 2022 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award during the Council’s September meeting in Charleston, South Carolina. The annual award is presented to individuals or teams that have exceeded their duty requirements, demonstrated a distinct pattern of service to enforcing fisheries regulations in the South Atlantic region, and exemplify the virtues of professionalism and dedication.
Private First-Class Jason Dozier
Private First-Class Jason Dozier, with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, works in coastal Georgetown County, where rice plantations once dotted the Pee Dee and Waccamaw Rivers, and where commercial docks, restaurants, and recreational boats now all vie for space. In addition to enforcing upland fish and game and boating regulations, PFC Dozier is a member of the SCDNR Saltwater Enforcement Team where he enforces state and federal fishery regulations. His work includes offshore patrols to enforce federal regulations for snapper grouper species, Highly Migratory Species including billfish and sharks, and marine mammals as well as state finfish fisheries, crabbing, shrimping and shellfish. His federal cases include over-the-limit Vermilion Snapper, commercial possession of Red Snapper during a closed season, and trap violations within a marine mammal-protected area.
PFC Dozier also coordinates both offshore and inshore fishery patrols, and dockside inspections, and works closely with federal dealers. He is known for his federal fisheries knowledge and attended the U.S. Coast Guard’s Southeast Regional Fisheries Training Center in Charleston. “Within his unit, PFC Dozier is known as the ‘go-to’ for fisheries questions,” said Captain Michael Paul Thomas with SCDNR. “With an outgoing personality, he takes time to educate fishermen and works well with other agencies at the local, state, and federal levels. Jason gives 100% to everything he does.”
Game Warden First-Class Matt Tsiklistas
While the Georgia coastline may be a bit smaller compared to its neighbors, fisheries law enforcement remains a challenge. Game Warden FC Matt Tsiklistas is familiar with these challenges, being assigned to McIntosh County, historically one of the busier commercial and recreational fisheries areas within the tri-county coastal area. Officer Tsiklistas covers approximately 60 miles of Georgia’s 100-mile coastline, focusing on patrolling waterways as well as near shore and offshore waters.
“Matt’s dedication to protecting our fisheries resources comes naturally to him,” said Captain Chris Hodge, regional supervisor with GA DNR Law Enforcement Division. “He is an avid offshore angler and uses the network he has built over the years to aid our work unit. He shares information and ideas and is always willing to help his coworkers learn.”
In 2022, Officer Tsiklistas executed and participated in eighteen specific patrols that involved enforcement of snapper grouper regulations, right whale patrols, Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary patrols, shrimp trawler patrols, and seafood dealer inspections. He assisted with five joint enforcement cases with NOAA Fisheries involving over the limit and undersized fish, offshore crab trap/weak link violations (protecting right whales) and identifying descending device violations.
“We welcome the opportunity to acknowledge the work of these state agency law enforcement officers who go the extra mile to ensure enforcement of marine resources in both state and federal waters,” said Council Chair Dr. Carolyn Belcher. “It is a privilege to present the award to both officers for their hard work and dedication.”