The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) presented several awards Tuesday as part of its quarterly business meeting held here.
The following awards were presented:
Two employees of Moraine State Park were presented with a Lifesaving Award in recognition of their assistance in July to a father and son who capsized while canoeing on Lake Arthur in Butler County.
On July 24, Jerry Walter and his son launched their canoe at the Bear Run Launch Area to enjoy a day of fishing near Barber’s Point on the North Shore. By early afternoon, a cold front had moved into the area, resulting in strong northwest winds and two-foot swells and whitecaps. Realizing that conditions were deteriorating, they began paddling back to the Bear Run launch where they capsized about one mile off shore. A visitor heard their calls for help and drove to the park office for assistance.
Park Manager Dan Bickel was in the office and responded immediately in the park’s patrol boat. When he arrived, he found the two men clinging to the side of a bystander’s 12-foot aluminum fishing boat wearing properly fitting personal floatation devices (PFDs). Both men were visibly shaken, but otherwise fine.
Park employee Rick Elia was recognized for his efforts earlier in the day to educate the pair about the importance of wearing PFDs. When Mr. Walter and his son purchased their launch permit, they asked Elia for the boating regulations for a canoe. He provided the PFBC’s Boating Regulations Summary and advised the two men about regulations regarding PFDs. In addition, he went one important step further and strongly advised them to wear PFDs anytime they are canoeing, even though wearing them was not a specific requirement for this time of year.
Following the incident, Mr. Walter said that he remembered the advice before launching. As a result, he and his son chose to wear the PFDs. He credits this one key decision with saving their lives.
Being a first time kayak owner the previous year, Mr. Elia was instructed by his coworkers and friends to always wear a PFD when padding. This pass-it-on mindset illustrates that providing safety information is everyone’s job and establishing a policy of PFD use when boating may have prevented a tragedy on an otherwise beautiful summer day at Lake Arthur.
“Many thanks to Dan and Rick for their quick actions associated with this incident,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “The Commission provides Lifesaving Awards to individuals who take significant action to prevent the loss of a life of anglers, boaters, or users of Commission property and we wish to thank you for your actions.”
Educator of the Year Award
Wildlife Forever, a Minnesota-based national conservation organization, has named a Pennsylvania high-school teacher its 2012 Educator of the Year in recognition of her significant contributions to youth conservation education through the State-Fish Art Contest.
On behalf of Wildlife Forever, the PFBC today presented the award to Dr. Helen Loughner, a chemistry teacher at Penn-Trafford High School in Harrison City, Westmoreland County. Dr. Loughner has been teaching chemistry for 34 years and has been a regular participant in the State-Fish Art Contest, with her students submitting many entries each year. In 2012 her students submitted 57 entries.
The Wildlife Forever State-Fish Art Contest is entering its 15th year of bringing children, art and aquatic conservation together. The PFBC has been a partner in the contest from the beginning, with the winning artwork for Pennsylvania students appearing in the Angler and Boater magazine, other publications, and on the Commission’s website.
Outstanding Service Award
Northwest Region Waterways Conservation Officer Brook Tolbert received an Outstanding Service Award for his investigation of an illegal commercial fishing operation on Lake Erie in May 2011.
Search warrants led to the discovery of illegal gill net usage, unlicensed trap nets, improperly marked nets and the illegal catch of protected species. One illegal gill net stretched over 3,000 feet.
Following a two-day trial, the defendants were found guilty. Fines and restitution of over $10,000 along with seven years of probation were handed down by the Erie County court.
Images courtesy Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission