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John's Journal... Entry 251, Day 5


Heidi Lofton, The Other Lady Cop

Editor's Note: As you know, salt-water fishing has a number of size limits, bag limits and restrictions. But do you know who enforces these laws? Who keeps the commercial fishermen, the netters, the oystermen and the recreational fishermen from breaking the law, taking too many fish and/or fishing in closed areas? In my home state of Alabama and many other states, the Enforcement Division of the Marine Resources Department of the state's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has this responsibility. To learn more about who the fish cops are, what they do, and why they are important to all of us, I went on patrol with them in coastal areas recently at night and during the day. I learned that they have some of the most-sophisticated surveillance equipment of any law enforcement agency. Besides radar, they have night-vision binoculars and other devices to spot and track law violators. They also do drug enforcement, health-department enforcement and immigration enforcement and are cross-trained with many state and federal agents. This week we'll meet Alabama's fish cops, the Alabama Marine Resources Enforcement Division (AMRED), and learn what they do.

PHILLIPS: Heidi, why did you decide to join Marine Resources' Enforcement Division?
LOFTON: I was tired of being a beat cop. I was a police officer for the city of Foley, Alabama and one day I just decided that I had done my college internship with Marine police, so I decided to come down and apply and see if I could get on the Force.

PHILLIPS: What do you like about working as a fish cop?
LOFTON: Every day is different, and every day is exciting. I like getting out, getting on the boat and checking all the fishermen, oystermen and shrimpers that we can possibly check in a day. I like meeting the public and all the people we meet really treat me with respect and they are very nice.

PHILLIPS: Have you had any scary incidences out here?
LOFTON: No, not really.

PHILLIPS: Most women would be concerned working in the open Gulf at night and running up and down these rivers checking for law violators. Are you not affected by that?
LOFTON: Not really. Night patrols are just part of the job, and I feel that working with the AMRED is much better than being a beat cop like I was.

Lofton is very serious about her job, as are all the enforcement officers, but she says she really likes working in the fresh air, occasionally running the boats at high speeds, meeting different people and patrolling different areas on almost every shift. The ladies of the Marine Resources Enforcement Division go through all the training that the men officers do. They jump from boat to boat to check violators. They run boats at high speeds across choppy waters and they are out in the wind or weather just as their male counterparts are. All the officers of AMRED are the bulldogs on the front line who are trained to go after law violators that would steal, destroy, overharvest or in some way pollute or harm the Gulf Coast and its environment. The fish cops, as they are often called, do more than just check anglers' bag limits and length limits. They help to insure that no contaminated seafood comes to the marketplace. They insure that all the laws that govern fishing and fishermen are enforced, and they protect our Coast lines from illegal drug traffickers and aliens who would come into this Country through improper channels.

I, like most of you, never knew the roles of these enforcement officers. However, after spending a night and a day with them, I have learned that without them the fish and wildlife that we enjoy each time we go to the beach would be in grave danger.



Check back each day this week for more about FISH COPS: THE WATCHDOG OF THE MARINE RESOURCES ...

Day 1 - What Is AMRED?
Day 2 - Check For Drugs
Day 3 - Reef Violations
Day 4 - Lady Fish Cops
Day 5 - Heidi Lofton, The Other Lady Cop

John's Journal