council logo bannerFor Immediate Release
August 25, 2021

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council presented the 2020 Law Enforcement Officer/Team of the Year award to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Division of Law Enforcement Marine Tactical Operations Group.

The Council’s Team/Officer of the Year award acknowledges service above and beyond duty requirements and recognizes distinguished service, professionalism, and dedication to enforcing federal fishing regulations in the Gulf of Mexico. Nominees may be submitted from each of the five Gulf State Law Enforcement agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard, and NOAA Fisheries’ Office for Law Enforcement.

The Marine Tactical Operations Group is comprised of five full-time Game Wardens: Matt Strauss, Carmen Rickel, Travis Haug, Shane Horrocks, and Captain Wesley Groth. This specialized unit is responsible for a broad range of maritime details including any high-risk incidents requiring maritime law enforcement response. The team is also responsible for maintaining and operating a new long range, endurance vessel which allow for multiday patrols and effective enforcement in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

In 2020, the Marine Tactical Operations Group seized over 116,860 feet of illegal longline and 2,500 feet of illegal gillnet. The team recovered over 3,600 pounds of illegally harvested red snapper, rescued and released three sea turtles, and seized two commercial Mexican fishing vessels. Over and above their extensive work to protect state water fisheries, the team referred five cases to NOAA Law Enforcement in 2020. In addition to their incredible patrol work, the team also instructs all new Game Wardens to shape the skills and integrity of boating safety across the state.

“These hard-working individuals selflessly work endless hours for the betterment and protection of Texas fisheries and national resources,” says Captain Wesley Groth of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Division of Law Enforcement, “I cannot think of another team or individual more worthy of recognition than the members of Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Marine Tactical Operations Group. They whole-heartedly believe in the work they do and strive to protect our waterways with a positive attitude and professional poise.”