FWC Division of Law Enforcement awards team of the NOAA Vessel Peter Gladding as 2013 Team of the Year

Photo of Gladding team. Lt. Joshua Peters and Officers Glen Way, Raul Pena-Lopez, and Martin Messier aboard the P/V Peter Gladding.

The offshore team of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s (FKNMS) Patrol Vessel Peter Gladding has been named the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Division of Law Enforcement’s Team of the Year for 2013.  The accomplishment of the team is based on a truly team-orientated approach to successfully complete its mission to protect the unique ecosystem of the Lower Keys.  The team’s efforts have led to multiple successes throughout the past year including implementing trainings with various agencies to enhance efforts around community-related events, conducting marine fisheries-related details involving high-profile species of the Florida Keys, and citing several significant fisheries violations. FWC Major Alfredo Escanio commended the team, “Our Gladding Team exemplifies unity, commitment and dedication; all these qualities are required to succeed in the offshore environment they operate in.”

The FKNMS provides funding through a Joint Enforcement Agreement to the FWC Division of Law Enforcement for the officers’ salaries to operate the Gladding.  “The Gladding Team is most deserving of this recognition” said Sean Morton, sanctuary superintendent. “Their dedication and professionalism in protecting the natural and historical resources of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is the nationwide model for marine protected area enforcement.” The P/V Peter Gladding, a fuel-efficient high speed catamaran, serves as a long-range patrol boat in the Lower Keys whose primary operating area is the remote Tortugas Ecological Reserve, 70 miles west of Key West. 

Captained by Lt. Joshua Peters and crewed by Officers Raul Pena-Lopez, Glen Way, and Martin Messier, the Gladding is named for Peter Gladding who was a leader in the commercial fishing community and worked tirelessly to help establish the Tortugas Ecological Reserve. The award-winning team has over 40 years combined experience with FWC and has received specialty training from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

Annually, the vessel and team conducts multiple day missions totaling over 600 patrol hours in the Tortugas Ecological Reserve. Some of the significant 2013 Sanctuary violation cases the P/V Peter Gladding team is responsible for include:

  • January, 2013 – A commercial shrimp vessel fishing in the Tortugas Ecological Reserve North was charged with possession of 20 fish over the bag limit of yellowtail snapper, numerous turtle excluder device violations, and actively discharging raw sewage within the FKNMS. 
  • February, 2013 - Two commercial fishermen were charged with more than 1,300 misdemeanor violations for harvesting 664 fish inside the Tortugas Ecological Reserve North.
  • May, 2013 - The team executed FWC Operation “For the Future Generations,” whose mission was to target non-compliant anglers harvesting more than the daily bag limit during fish spawning.  The team completed more than 52 marine fisheries inspections resulting in fifteen misdemeanor fisheries violations and the issuance of twelve boating safety and/or marine sanitation device infractions.
  • July, 2013 – The team was contacted by an anonymous source about an online advertisement selling ‘fresh’ lobster tails.  Ofc. Pena-Lopez arranged the purchase of 25 lobster tails in the Marathon Kmart parking lot, which resulted in charges of the unlicensed sale of saltwater products and possession/sale of Florida spiny lobster during the closed season.  The team also participated in a commercial lobster trap detail in July in which 32 untagged traps were discovered onboard a commercial vessel.  
  • September, 2012 - After boarding a recreational vessel located southwest of the Marquesas, the team issued seven misdemeanor charges to the operator for not maintaining reef fish in whole condition, red grouper over the bag limit red, snapper over the bag limit, undersize red grouper, undersize yellowtail snapper, undersize lane snapper, and interference with an FWC law enforcement officer. 
  • October, 2012 – As the team approached an anchored vessel in the Tortugas Ecological Reserve North (TERN), two occupants of the commercial vessel were observed cutting fishing lines hanging off the stern.  An inspection revealed that the vessel was anchored inside the reserve with fishing gear aboard, actively fishing, and had over 1,400 pounds of reef fish on board.  The crew of the vessel was charged with multiple violations within the TERN including fishing, anchoring, entering and remaining inside the Reserve without a valid access permit. 

Team Biographies:

  • Lt. Peters, a Key West native with more than 5 years of service with the FWC, has captained the Gladding since November of 2012.
  • Ofc. Raul Pena-Lopez, has over 7 years of service with the FWC and holds the longest tenure on the Gladding, having been with it since its commissioning in 2006.
  • Ofc. Glen Way, originally from Newport Beach, California, joined FWC in 2009 and has been assigned to the Gladding for the duration of his career.
  • Ofc. Martin Messier, from Troy, New York, joined the Florida Marine Patrol in 1989. He has over 24 years of service, and has been aboard the Gladding for the past two years.

To learn more about FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement, please visit MyFWC.com/law/

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects 2,900 square nautical miles of critical marine habitat, including coral reef, hard bottom, sea grass meadows, mangrove communities and sand flats, as well as shipwrecks and maritime heritage resources. NOAA and the state of Florida manage the sanctuary. Visit us at http://floridakeys.noaa.gov, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.