||South Atlantic Fishery Management Council
|December 13, 2011
||CONTACT: Kim Iverson
Public Information Officer
Council Awards Law Enforcement Officer of the Year
Members of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council awarded its first ever Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Officer Clay L. McDonough. Officer McDonough was presented the prestigious award by Council Chairman David Cupka during the Council’s December meeting last week in Raleigh, NC. The award recognizes distinctive service, professionalism and dedication to enforcing fisheries regulations in the South Atlantic region, and acknowledges service above and beyond duty requirements. Nominees may be submitted from each of the southeastern state law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA Fisheries. The Council’s Law Enforcement Advisory Panel provided a final list of nominees for consideration by the Council.
“It is an honor for me to have the opportunity to recognize the hard work and dedication of Officer McDonough”, said Chairman Cupka during the presentation. “The Council has long appreciated the role that law enforcement plays in the management and conservation of natural resources in both state and federal waters. Officer McDonough and all of the nominees well deserve this recognition.” The Council has been a strong supporter of the Joint Law Enforcement Agreement that allows state wildlife law enforcement officers jurisdiction in both state and federal waters.
As a patrol officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Officer McDonough is assigned to the coastal squad in Volusia County, enforcing public safety and natural resource regulations in the Daytona Beach area. He also works the tributary waters of the Halifax and Indian Rivers, the Intracoastal Waterway, Ponce de Leon Inlet and state and federal waters offshore. But his service extends much further. Officer McDonough has been in marine law enforcement for 13 years. His knowledge and experience is exceptional and he is considered an expert in fish species identification. He provides classroom training to other enforcement personnel, including US Coast Guard boarding officers and other federal partners and has created an electronic federal case packet to help increase convictions.
In addition to his role as trainer and mentor, Officer McDonough has a track record of personally making cases in the protection of natural resources. He recently observed a recreational vessel dump several bags of fish fillets while returning toward the inlet. The operator admitted to dumping the fillets upon seeing the patrol vessel. The Marine Forensics Lab confirmed the fillets were gag grouper and red snapper. The federal case is pending disposition with NOAA General Counsel for Enforcement Litigation. McDonough also coordinated a joint surveillance and inspection detail for NOAA Office for Law Enforcement after he received information that a local commercial snapper grouper dive boat was violating federal lobster tailing permit requirements. Although the investigation did not result in an arrest, the industry took note that regulations were to be followed. To date, Officer McDonough’s federal cases have accrued over $52,000 in fines assessed against both commercial and recreational vessels.
“This is really amazing,” exclaimed Officer McDonough as he accepted his award from the Council. “I never expected this. To be nominated for the award is such an honor. I accept this on behalf of enforcement officers who go above and beyond their duties to help protect natural resources each day. Officer McDonough has twice been honored by the Coastal Conservation Association as Officer of the Year and received the Certificate of Appreciation from the US Department of Commerce, NOAA Office of Law Enforcement for his superior performance. FWC has recognized his achievements by assigning him as Operator/Officer in Charge of a 10-meter Boston Whaler patrol vessel funded through the Joint Enforcement Agreement.
Other nominees acknowledged by the Council’s Law Enforcement Advisory Panel for their service include: South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Officer Sgt. Steve Pop of Pawley’s Island, SC; Officer Chris Ridley with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in Brunswick, GA; Sgt. Jason Walker of Boiling Springs Lakes, NC with the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries; and US Coast Guard Officer Dustin Albertson, stationed in Marathon, Florida. “The Council will continue to solicit candidates to receive the annual award,” explained Chairman Cupka. “The award allows us to acknowledge the ongoing dedication of the men and women who enforce fishing regulations and protection of marine resources in often harsh environments and challenging economic times.”
The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, one of eight regional councils, conserves and manages fish stocks from three to 200 miles offshore of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and east Florida.