The state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday fined a 54-year-old Hilo man $633,840 for allegedly pouring ant poison into Paheehee Stream in North Hilo, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 6,250 Tahitian prawns.
This is the largest BLNR fine ever for an aquatic resource violation in the state, the Department of Land and Natural Resources said in a statement.
“The action … sends a strong and clear message to anyone else who is endangering people’s health and killing life in our streams,” said BLNR and DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case. “Over the past week we’ve received additional reports of individuals using chemicals used in pesticides to poison streams for the sole purpose of collecting prawns to sell for human consumption. It is illegal and morally indefensible, and anyone caught will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The statement said DLNR received an anonymous tip about an individual poisoning the stream to take prawns, which sparked a two-month investigation that included DLNR, the state Department of Agriculture and Hawaii Police Department.
Case singled out the combined efforts of the community in the area, Officer Shishido, DAR legal fellow Ryan McDermott, DAR biologist Sakihara, DOA Pesticide Branch in Hilo and the DOA Oahu Laboratory and HPD Officer Matt Lewis for helping keep the individual accountable for his actions.
“This kind of use of poison to harvest natural resources is appalling and extremely damaging to our natural resources wherever used,” Case said. “Globally it’s understood to be a terrible method of collecting fish, which is harmful not just to those fish and potentially to the people who consume them, but very devastating to the native resources around them. And it takes a long time to recover. This very significant fine lets illegal fishers know that we take these matters, very, very seriously. Responsible citizens, acting as witnesses, and our officers are watching streams closely, and if you’re engaged in these types of activities, eventually the law will catch up with you. This kind of illegal and extremely harmful fishing behavior collecting prawns in streams using poison is unacceptable and we will enforce it at every turn.”