Illegal to fish at Wai'opae tide pools, some try anyway
Taking fish from a marine conservation is illegal but it's happening on at least one conservation area on the Big Island.
Marine life conservation districts like Hanauma bay have been set up to protect ecosystems, prevent over use and provide a safe place for fish to grow and give more offspring.
But at the Wai'opae tide pools near Kapoho, residents say illegal fishing is a constant problem.
"One night we caught people who had 19 octopus taken out of this tiny area. The area just can't regenerate when we have that kind of abuse," says Nadean Rutledge, Wai'opae information officer.
Sometimes violators strike in broad daylight, bypassing no fishing signs and throwing their nets.
In 2003, the Wai'opae tide pools became one of 11 Marine Life Conservation Districts across the state, but some fishermen haven't accepted the change.
"Unfortunately a lot of people did fish here as children and it's been a big transition for them," says Rutledge.
Residents say the area is being over fished. They claim fishermen take lobster, octopus, turtles, and damage the habitat.
"Basically this is a nursery for the next generation. not only are they killing all the fish, they're stepping on the coral, corals broken down," says Katherine Sullivan, a Kapoho resident.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources enforces the rules at the Wai'opae tide pools and residents have noticed an increase in its patrols, but that's not solving the problem.
"They will eventually show up maybe, but by then everybody is long gone," says Rutledge.
Violator can face stiff penalties ranging from $250 to $1,000 for criminal charges. Civil penalties carry a fine of up to $1,000 per specimen, plus $1,000 per violation.
Residents expect cases of illegal fishing to increase in September because of lobster season. The DLNR wants the public to continue reporting illegal fishing to DOCARE. If it finds a pattern, it says it'll take the necessarily steps for enforcement patrols.
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