With the start of Federal snapper season on Wednesday, the Marine Resource Law Enforcement Division was out on the water with one of their newest and furriest officers.
The division’s two spaniels were trained last fall to sniff out hidden snapper or fillets, and officer Lena Phillips said she’s noticed a big improvement since they completed their training.
” We have a lot more repetitions which makes the entire thing more realistic, and that helps with her training aspect,” Phillips said. “People have been really receptive to her being on the vessels.”
During our day on the water with the officers, the positive response from boaters seemed to prove true, but then again none of them were breaking the law.
“I like the idea! It saves y’all time!” one boater said.
“I’ve seen these dogs out hunting, but never on the water. It’s amazing,” another said.
Scott Bannon, a major with Marine Resources, said they haven’t had a large number of cases with the dogs but that’s part of the overall goal.
“I’ve been pleased with the dogs. We haven’t had very many cases but that was part of my original purpose with the dogs, to change the behavior and let people know we have them and to abide by the law from the beginning,” Bannon said.
Phillips said she hopes people can see the dogs as an asset and not a threat when they pull up to boats.
“We’re trying to let them work for you, so the snapper season can be elongated,” Phillips said about the strict and short federal season.
Bannon explained that the dogs are paid for by a grant from NOAA and various donations, similar to when they order new equipment.