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Hawaii island fish collector charged in scuba incident

  • RENE UMBERGER / APA diver near Kona swims toward activist Rene Umberger before ripping out her air-supply regulator in this frame from a video Umberger released. Fish collectors have accused activists of harassment.
    RENE UMBERGER / AP
    A diver near Kona swims toward activist Rene Umberger before ripping out her air-supply regulator in this frame from a video Umberger released. Fish collectors have accused activists of harassment.

KAILUA-KONA » A Hawaii fish collector has been charged with terroristic threatening for pulling the air-supply regulator out of the mouth of an anti-aquarium-industry activist while they were both underwater.

Prosecutors filed the misdemeanor charge against Jay Lovell, West Hawaii Today reported Thursday.

The incident took place off West Hawaii when activist Renee Umberger and other divers approached Lovell while he was collecting aquarium fish to sell.

Umberger and another diver filmed the incident.

"It’s an appropriate charge," Umberger said Wednesday after learning the complaint had been filed.

She said people have approached her since the incident to talk about their concerns about the fish collecting practice.

"People have expressed gratitude for documenting this," Umberger said.

Lovell’s brother, Jim Lovell, said the divers were disrupting the fish collectors’ work.

"It is very clear that Rene Umberger and her associates were responsible for this incident," Jim Lovell said in an email to West Hawaii Today.

Lovell filed a complaint against Umberger for the episode. West Hawaii prosecutors didn’t immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press asking about the outcome of the complaint.

Fishermen off the Kona coast, where the confrontation occurred, account for 75 percent of the aquarium fish caught in Hawaii. Aquarium fish collecting is legal off Kona, but fisherman must avoid certain places and collect only certain species. The incident occurred in Keawaiki Bay, where collecting is allowed.

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