The Department of Land and Natural resources says the colonies of feral animals found at small boat harbors and facilities creates unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

"The smell and the flies..it is a health issue," Joni Bagood with the Mokauea Fishermen's Association said. "It's a public place.. people frequent it. You've got fisherman. You've got people fishing off of the piers and who knows what will go in the fish eventually."

On Friday, the DLNR board adopted two amendments to the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation rules. The rules prohibit abandoning animals and creating or contributing to colonies and feeding of wildlife or feral animals, on state land. 

Meanwhile, non-profit Alley Cats Allies expressed its worry regarding a section in one of the rules that states "any stray within a small boat harbor" may be seized and disposed of by DLNR. According to the rules "strays" may also be feral or abandoned. 

"I think the concern is the way that the rules are written it could be interpreted that there is broad discretion to kill first," representative for Alley Cats Allies, John White said.

Hawaii Revised Statutes already says the state can "destroy" a predator by any means deemed necessary by the department. But DLNR chairwoman Suzanne Case responded to White during Friday's board meeting, saying the new rules are not about killing cats, its about ensuring the harbors are "clean and "healthy."

Public Policy Advocate for the Hawaiian Humane Society, Stephanie Kendrick said in a statement: 

“The Hawaiian Humane Society is disappointed that the Board of Land and Natural Resources today chose to proceed with rules that threaten animals at Hawaii’s small boat harbors. The Society, cat advocates and other animal welfare groups have offered repeatedly to help the department address the isolated nuisance issues related to Free-Roaming cats at its small boat harbors. We remain willing to help.”

White also argued the new rules would further prevent individuals and groups from trying to help control the feral population in the most "humane way."

"These rules would essentially eliminate what I think a lot of experts would say is the most effective means of dealing with feral cat population, which is TNR," he said.

"TNR" means to "Trap, Nueter, and Return," White added.

DLNR ended up deferring the provision relating to disposal of feral and abandonded animals at small boat harbors until January 2019.

The state land department says they held off to give animal caregivers and the state chance to come up with a plan to relocate colonies.

"It's the 'R' part of the 'TNR' that we would like to work with you on.. like where do they go afterwords," Case said during Friday's board meeting. 

The adopted proposed revisions and additions now head to Governor Ige's office for final approval.