MOREHEAD CITY — N.C. Marine Patrol officers, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries staff and others gathered Monday to welcome the new head of the Marine Patrol, Col. Carter Witten.

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, parent organization for the DMF and Marine Patrol, held a pinning ceremony Monday in front of the DMF headquarters on Arendell Street. Col. Witten received the bird pins, which denote his new rank, as well as his new badge. The colonel’s wife, Joy, affixed his pins to his collar, while his son, Taylor, pinned his new badge.

Col. Witten takes the place of Col. Dean Nelson, who retired from the Marine Patrol last year. DEQ Secretary Mike Regan was at the ceremony, and spoke highly of Col. Witten.

“He’s the only officer to receive twice the Marine Fisheries Enforcement Officer of the Year award,” Mr. Regan said. “We know he’s up to the task (of leading the Marine Patrol).”

Mr. Regan also praised the Marine Patrol for its participation in the search for 3-year-old Casey Hathaway of Cayton, who went missing from his grandparents’ home in Ernul Jan. 22. He was found two days later, alive and unharmed.

DMF Director Steve Murphey said Col. Witten is a veteran Marine Patrol officer and has worked in the waters of our northern, central and southern areas.

“He has a strong vision for the Marine Patrol and cares deeply about the resource, our stakeholders and his fellow officers,” Mr. Murphey said. “I look forward to working with Carter and his staff in the future and congratulate him on his promotion.”

After the ceremony, Mr. Regan said Col. Witten was chosen as the new leader of the Marine Patrol for having more than twenty years of experience serving on the patrol in all three coastal districts.

“He brings a wealth of experience as we enter into the next chapter of the Marine Patrol,” Mr. Regan said.

After receiving his badge and birds, Col. Witten said he’s humbled and happy to be chosen for his new position.

“This is a great opportunity to show you all and prove to you how good I can be,” he said. “I look forward to having an open-door policy with the department and the public.”

Prior to his promotion, Col. Witten served as captain of the Wilmington Marine Patrol District. The Marine Patrol colonel is the top law enforcement officer at the DMF. The colonel manages more than 65 positions, including 53 officers and six dispatchers, and directs law enforcement efforts over 2.7 million acres of ocean and coastal fishing waters in 21 eastern counties of the state.

Col. Witten began his career with Marine Patrol in July 2001 as a patrol officer in Hyde County. He later transferred to Carteret County in early 2002 and patrolled the Newport River, and later to Craven County, where he patrolled the Havelock and New Bern areas.

He was promoted to sergeant over Hyde and Dare counties in September 2008. Then-Sgt. Witten transferred in May 2011 to Craven, Pamlico and Beaufort counties. He was then promoted to captain in the Wilmington District in April 2017.

Col. Witten has served as a field training officer, an instructor and has represented North Carolina on the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference.

Prior to joining the Marine Patrol, Col. Witten worked with the Havelock Police Department from October 1998 to July 2001.

Col. Witten said in a division press release he’s looking forward to leading Marine Patrol in its next chapter, and he knows this next chapter must involve building a rapport with those they regulate, including commercial and recreational fishermen.

A big part of that relationship is education, he said.

“Education can be as simple as talking with the public and explaining why we do the things we do, and why it’s important to have fisheries enforcement,” Col. Witten said.

He said he’s also looking forward to working more closely with the biologists and other non-law enforcement staff at the division, and participating on multiple committees and advisory teams to protect and build the resource.

Col. Witten has long been known amongst his fellow officers as the go-to guy who will take charge of whatever task he is presented with, according to the DMF in a Monday press release. His attitude and work ethic earned him the respect of his colleagues, who nominated him as the Marine Fisheries Enforcement Officer of the Year in 2004 and again in 2014. Col. Witten is the only officer to receive the award twice.

The Marine Fisheries Enforcement Officer of the Year award is an annual honor given by the Governor's Conservation Achievement Awards Program of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation.

A native of Havelock, Col. Witten graduated from Havelock High School in 1994 and received his Basic Law Enforcement Training Certificate from Carteret Community College in 1997.

The colonel currently lives in Havelock with his wife and son.


Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.


Normal Cutline:

N.C. Marine Patrol Col. Carter Witten, center, receives his pins Monday at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries headquarters from his wife Joy, left, while N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael Regan looks on. (Mike Shutak photo)