Man fined in West Hawaii fish poaching case

An environmental court judge on Tuesday issued fines to one of two people charged for allegedly illegally collecting 550 aquarium fish earlier this year off South Kohala.

Wayne T. Newman pleaded no contest to possessing aquatic life for aquarium purposes without holding a valid West Hawaii aquarium permit and possessing a “white list” species during an arraignment and plea hearing Tuesday in South Kohala.

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South Kohala Environmental Court Judge Mahilani Hiatt ordered Newman to pay a $100 fine and a $30 fee for each offense, for a total of $260, by July 7.

Newman was charged with the offenses after being contacted Feb. 20 by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement when returning on a vessel with Tyron T. Terazono and a third person to Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor.

The DLNR said it received a tip that day concerning illegal harvesting of aquarium fish off Kawaihae and conducted a commercial fishing gear and catch inspection of the vessel “Masako.” The inspection allegedly turned up aquarium fishing gear, including a small mesh net, according to the department. The vessel’s hold also contained 550 live fish, all which were returned live to the ocean.

Tyron Terazono, the vessel’s captain, was charged with possessing aquarium collecting gear or taking, possessing aquatic life for aquarium purposes without holding a valid West Hawaii aquarium permit and possessing a “white list” species. An arraignment and plea hearing slated for Tuesday was continued to June 30.

The third person on the vessel was not charged.

The DLNR released a statement noting the Division of Aquatic Resources was disappointed with sentence.

“We estimate the retail market value of the illegal catch is in excess of $37,000 for this single incident. The $200 court sentence doesn’t adequately match the seriousness of the crime or discourage illegal activity in the future,” the statement reads. “Unfortunately, because this was a first offense, the maximum penalty is a $100 fine for each violation.

The DLNR is looking at additional penalties through a civil enforcement action, according to the statement.

“The maximum fine amount, as reflected in today’s court decision, does not reflect the value of the natural resources that can be lost when these laws are violated,” the statement added.

The DLNR, however, did not directly respond to a request for an update on a proposal from the division that went before the state Board of Land and Natural Resources last week.

Though commissioners stated a contested case hearing was sought during a livestream of the event, the department later said the proposal was withdrawn.

The board on May 22 was set to consider the proposal to split $110,000 in administrative fines among the three aboard the vessel on Feb. 20.

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The aquatic life allegedly collected had a retail value of nearly $37,500, according to a submission to the BLNR. Under administrative rules, a fine of up to $550,000 could have been sought for the 550 fish taken, in addition to fines for rule violations.

Email Chelsea Jensen at cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com.

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