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Wildlife and Fisheries promote boater safety

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MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) - From the dragon boat races to the big bass tournament, there are a lot of people on the water this weekend, making it the perfect time for Wildlife and Fisheries to kick off safe boating week. Last year, Louisiana set a record low of 15 boating fatalities and the department wants to see another record breaking year.

Lieutenant Thomas Risser says agents will be making a lot of these random stops throughout the week.

"It’s boating safety week all across the nation. We are going to have increased patrol and have more presence on the water. We are going to be looking specifically for DWIs, boaters under the influence," Risser said.    

Risser said although open container laws don't exist on the water, navigating a boat impaired is still against the law. Any person convicted of operating a boat under the influence will lose their driver's licenses and boating privileges.

Officers are also on the lookout for proper life jacket use. For every person on the boat, a personal floatation device must be available. And if a boat is less than 26 feet, every person under 17 must wear a life jacket.

"People are not aware of the under 17 because it use to be under 13 and its increased to under 17 for PFD wear," Risser said.  

For those born after January 1, 1984, a boater education course is required to operate a boat. The course is available online and at the local wildlife and fisheries office.

"We have it every second Saturday of every month for free," Risser said.  

Risser also reminds boaters to be mindful of other boats on the water. He said you are responsible for any damage your wake causes to another boater.

"Be courteous when you pass fishermen and small vessels. If you are in a larger vessel make sure you don't swamp their boat throwing a big wake into it," Risser said.   

Safety week may only last a few days, but Risser says game wardens will be checking for violators through the rest of the season.

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