Seven spearfishermen are accused of killing and removing a trove of reef fish from the protected waters of the Waikiki Marine Life Conservation District under the cover of night, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
It is illegal to fish for, take, or injure any marine life, or to possess fishing gear, in the waters of the conservation district, which extends from the groin at Kapahulu Avenue to the Ewa wall of the Natatorium, from the highwater mark out to a minimum seaward distance of 500 yards, or to the seaward edge of the fringing reef
But DLNR officials said in a news release that a group of seven Honolulu men was caught in the act of bringing in their illicit haul by three officers from the department’s Division of Conservation and Resources (DOCARE) after the officers received a call reporting illegal fishing in the conservation district and the adjoining Waikiki Fisheries Management Area.
From Kapiolani Beach Park, the officers spotted 10 lights illuminating the waters of the Waikiki conservation district, and watched as two men came to shore, one of whom fled back into the water when the officers made their presence known.
The man warned the group and all the dive lights went out, officials said, but the DOCARE officers tracked them to the Diamond Head side of the Waikiki Natatorium until they apparently thought they were in the clear, with one man getting out of the water and signaling to the others. “Officers then observed all the men get out of the water with spears, dive gear and fish,” according to the DLNR news release,
The officers cited the seven men, who now face multiple charges, including prohibited activities in an conservation district and FMA, having no diver flag, and possession of undersized fish. The officers inventoried about 130 fish, including palani, kala, u‘hu, he‘e, ulua and sea cucumbers, all dead, and returned the corpses to the ocean, according to the DLNR.
“We are deeply appreciative of the people who are helping us watch out for our precious aquatic resources and reporting potential violations to DOCARE,” the division’s chief Jason Redulla said in the news release. “Taking fish from any state MLCD is akin to stealing a baby from a nursery and we take these violations seriously and will pursue violators aggressively.”
On Aug. 15, eight spearfishermen were also picked up in the conservation district and FMA for the same violations, with about 100 fish in their possession.
In both cases, the suspects will have to appear in court and could face fines and/or jail time, DLNR said.
Members of the public can call 643-DLNR or use the free DLNRTip app to report violations.