Tuesday | December 12, 2017
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Your Views for November 17

Protect resources

Regarding the article “Line drawn on sand sales” (Tribune-Herald, Nov. 4), it’s interesting that the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the named legal authority, in efforts to crack down on natural resource contraband, are singling out eBay, an out-of-state online sales outlet that is likely unfamiliar with Hawaii state law, while the state itself seems to be doing nothing to enforce this law within its own borders.

On the Big Island, anyone who has visited our green or black sand beaches have watched tourists (and even locals) fill up empty water bottles with sand and stash pieces of coral in backpacks. Anyone who has visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has seen the same shenanigans regarding lava rock.

Can we effectively enforce the law at the point of origin? No. DNLR does not have the resources to patrol beaches and parks. That said, we live in an island state. Everything and every person that arrives or departs must pass through narrow choke points that offer excellent enforcement opportunities

Anyone who has flown out of Kona or Hilo airports has watched USDA inspectors and TSA security screeners trip across these items, daily and throughout the day, in carry-on luggage and, helpless because of jurisdictional issues or mission focus (federal authorities, state law), place them back in travelers’ bags and wish them on their way. (There is no telling how much material goes out in check-in luggage and in the mail).

“Educating the public” is not “our best prevention,” especially given that much of the public involved consists of short-term visitors with no insight to (or regard for) local laws, but it would be a nice supplement to true enforcement. When visitors become aware that these items will be confiscated from them at the airport, or that they will actually be fined in accordance with the currently toothless law when such items are discovered in their luggage, then the theft of these items will abate to a measurable degree.

Enforcement at the post office is another matter all together, but equally worthy of exploration.

John Atwell



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