FISH COPS: THE WATCHDOG OF THE MARINE RESOURCES
Heidi Lofton, The Other Lady Cop
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
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
PHILLIPS: Have you had any scary incidences out here?
LOFTON: No, not really.
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
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
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.
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.