If you see a fisheries violation, should you report it? Or keep your trap shut. “None of your business,” say some.
These folks think it is clever or even sporty to break the law or ignore others who do so.
You even hear now and then the idea that there is an admirable “honor among thieves” code protecting wrongdoers.
We should report crimes, and be proud we did.
That’s the fundamental principle behind “neighborhood crime watch” programs. They couldn’t work without cooperating citizens.
Facing the choice of what to do when seeing unlawful acts happens regularly on the waters.
Just a few weeks ago, for instance, a couple of boaters in South Florida came upon three spearfishermen happily taking large snook, violating an arm’s length of regulations.
The observers wondered for a minute and then called the law, setting off a successful chain of arrests. (Note coverage elsewhere.)
Unfortunately, many unlawful fishing acts go unreported.
The silence code really hurts us all because the sad fact is that there are precious few law enforcement officers on the waters. Sometimes they’re separated by 20 or 30 miles.
Thus, a “marine crime watch” is essential. In past years, there have been a number of stop-and-start efforts to form citizens’ law enforcement committees in non-profit organizations. At one point, volunteers even tracked particular criminal cases and reported what, if anything, happened in the court system.
Following cases takes time and dedication. Such well-intentioned programs tend to fade away. But let’s keep trying, and reporting.
Some of the dedication is there, on the wrong side of the blotter. With the incentive of illegal profits, law breakers too often are extremely difficult for officers to catch.
In the end, the success of law enforcement depends on voluntary compliance by citizens, and their willingness to partner with the law.
It’s past time to activate marine crime watches and encourage everyone to be alert and make those calls.
Good enforcement is everyone’s business.