Fish Busters’ Bulletin
by Bob Wattendorf, FWC
Tip@MyFWC.com to report fish-and-wildlife law violators or boating under the influence.
If you are like most Florida anglers and boaters, you enjoy your time on the water. It’s an opportunity to get close to nature and break the routine of work, school or retirement. The peaceful challenge of trying to find, attract and catch your piscatorial prey is made possible, in part, by the scientific management and conservation laws that sustain sport fish populations. The goal is for everyone to be able to share in the pleasure and to provide a sustainable harvest.
So when you see someone threatening those resources by damaging habitat, polluting the water, using illegal gear, taking more than the bag limit or keeping undersized fish, you probably wish you could do something. Well, you can. You have several options, but the newest, most real-time option is to silently send a text message to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Conscientious anglers and boaters can text Tip@MyFWC.com (standard usage fees may apply).
“The text-messaging option makes it more convenient for the public,” said Col. Jim Brown, director of the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement. “We also hope it will make Wildlife Alert even more effective in catching poachers and other violators.”
Being able to do so quickly and efficiently is crucial. Cell phones, and now texting, help get information to a conservation officer while the possible crime is still ongoing. Once a report is initiated, FWC dispatchers can respond via text message to the reporting party to gather additional details.
Other Ways to Report a Violation
Over the years the Wildlife Alert Reward Program has helped the FWC catch thousands of violators. Boaters and anglers can call 888-404-FWCC (3922), or simply dial *FWC or #FWC (depending on service provider). Violations can also be reported online (MyFWC.com/WildlifeAlert).
How Wildlife Alert Works
When submitting information it is important to include as much information as possible, such as the specific violation and the location. Don’t forget to include physical descriptions of violators and vehicles, license tag numbers, etc. Such details are important to ensure an officer can respond effectively.
Callers and online reporters may remain anonymous; they do not have to provide their names or email addresses, and they will not be required to testify in court. A confidential code number is provided, so you will be eligible for a reward, either by text, email or calling 888-404-FWCC. Trained dispatchers handle Wildlife Alert contacts 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
When people’s information results in an arrest, they may become eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Many conservation-minded people don’t even claim the reward because helping get the violators off the water or saving a life by reporting unsafe boaters, including boating under the influence, is reward enough.
The real beauty of the program is that violators – through court fines – are the ones who pay the reward money. When a violator is found guilty, the judge can require a portion of the fine to be paid into the Wildlife Alert Reward Fund. So, in effect, violators are paying people to turn them in.
Wildlife Alert’s 13-Member Committee
The highly successful Wildlife Alert Reward Program has been around for more than 30 years and is administered by a 13-member committee appointed by the FWC’s executive director. The committee meets at least twice a year, oversees the program and determines the reward amounts. There are two members for each of the FWC’s five geographic regions, and one member each representing Audubon of Florida, Florida Wildlife Federation and Unified Sportsmen of Florida. Each member serves a two-year term and may be reappointed by the executive director.
The Chair of Wildlife Alert since 2009 has been Jenny Brock, Regional Director of the Florida Wildlife Federation’s Northwest Region and also Region Four Director of the National Wildlife Federation. Ms. Brock noted that “Wildlife Alert makes our wildlife officers more efficient. Florida is a big state and we can all help protect our outdoor resources by contacting Wildlife Alert when we see known or suspected violations.”
Wildlife Alert is Not Just for Fishing Violations
You can also report illegal hunting; destruction of the resource such as the cutting of trees or trash dumping; sick, dead, injured or tagged manatees or marine turtles; commercial trafficking of wildlife; or the killing of an endangered or threatened species.
Concerned Citizens Can Directly Assist the FWC by Calling:
- Angler Tag Return Hotline: 800-367-4461.
- Fish Kill Hotline: 800-636-0511.
- Horseshoe Crab Nesting Activity: 866-252-9326.
- Manatees: Report sick, dead, injured or tagged manatees: Wildlife Alert 888-404-3922.
- Marine Turtles: Report dead or injured marine turtles: Wildlife Alert 888-404-3922.
- Oil, Fuel or Hazardous Material Spills in Florida Waters: 800-320-0519.
- Red Tide Status Line: (Toll-free inside Florida only) 866-300-9399. Outside Florida – 727-552-2448.
- Waterway Markers – Missing or Damaged: 866-405-2869.
- Nuisance Alligators: 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).
- Burmese Pythons, or other exotic reptiles: 888-483-4681.
For additional listings, and online contact forms for many of these reporting activities, visit MyFWC.com/Contact.
Protecting fish, wildlife and ourselves is everyone’s responsibility. Reporting those who misuse our wildlife resources or endanger lives by operating vessels while intoxicated is one way we can all help. Through Wildlife Alert and these other programs, ordinary people become the eyes and ears of the FWC, keep costs down, help conserve our resources and keep outdoor enthusiasts safe.
Additional contributions by Katie Purcell –the FWC’s public information coordinator for its Division of Law Enforcement and by Claudia Farren – FWF’s Communications Consultant.