Report illegal fishing

HONOLULU — Hawaii-based marine and animal protection organizations have joined forces with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources to make it easier for people to report illegal aquarium collecting activity across the state.

“We appreciate the efforts of these organizations that are working tirelessly to support our enforcement of aquarium collection laws, and to ensure only legal and pono fishing practices are used,” DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said.

In September of 2017, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that state-issued aquarium permits were subject to environmental review under the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act (HEPA). All permits to take aquatic life for aquariums using fine-meshed nets were declared illegal and invalid until an environmental review could be completed.

In order to collect fish using fine-meshed nets, the collector must prepare and submit the draft EIS, according to the Division of Aquatic Resources, and to date DAR hasn’t received any applications or a DEIS for the activity.

“Outside of the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area, people can still take fish for aquarium purposes, as long as legal gear and methods are used. In West Hawaii, all aquarium take is prohibited, regardless of the gear or method,” representatives from DAR said Wednesday.

For the Fishes, Moana ‘Ohana, The Center for Biological Diversity, West Hawaii Humane Society, and DLNR have combined resources to make it easy for anyone to report suspected poaching of reef creatures. Successful prosecution of a poaching case can result in a reward of up to $5,000 for the person or people who provided the tip.

“We are asking for the public’s kokua (help) in reporting any suspected illegal reef wildlife collection,” Mike Nakachi of Kona-based Moana ‘Ohana said. “We continue to receive reports from concerned residents alleging illegal capture of our fragile and sacred reef animals. All aquarium fish collection off West Hawaii is against the law, regardless of gear type or net size.”

“We must all work together to ensure Hawaii’s rich marine life are protected from illegal poaching,” said Maxx Phillips, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Hawaii director. “Court orders and regulatory rulings suspending aquarium collecting is a good start, but those laws are meaningless without proper enforcement.”

In addition to the new, 808-NO-POACH reporting hotline, where concerned people can call or text photos and images of alleged illegal activity, DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement also takes tips through its state-wide telephone hotline or free, online application.

To report suspected illegal take of wildlife:

Call or text (including images/video): 808-NO-POACH (808-667-6224)

Call: 808-643-DLNR (808-643-3567)

Free download: DLNRTip on android and Apple devices

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Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.

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