Ka‘u man arrested for illegal aquarium fish, gear | #coronavirus | #scams | #covid19

A 47-year-old Naalehu man is the latest Big Island resident to be cited by state officers for illegal collection of aquarium fish withing the West Hawaii Regional Fisheries Management Area.

Jason Beevers was arrested Thursday after officers with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement spotted and boarded his vessel while patrolling in waters off South Point.

The officers first spotted Beevers’ vessel Thursday morning and maintained surveillance. Later in the day, a team of officers boarded the boat, suspecting aquatic resources violations, according to the department.

Officers inspected the boat and Beevers’ catch at the South Point boat ramp. They reportedly found 333 yellow tang and three paku‘iku‘i, also known as Achilles tang. Both are common species of aquarium fish.

The inspection also revealed 16 violations of Hawaii Administrative Rules relating to fishing gear and permit requirements relating to the West Hawaii Regional Fisheries Management Area. The violations included conducting prohibited activities with the management area, not having all of or meeting the necessary aquarium collection permit and vessel registration requirements, possessing prohibited and unmarked gear and having illegal and unregistered lay nets.

Beevers was booked and released on his own recognizance. He will be required to appear in court on the charges, which are petty misdemeanors. He could face fines, imprisonment and administrative penalties. All the fishing gear was seized as evidence, according to the department.

As Beevers prepares to head to court, a Kealakekua man has a Sept. 8 court hearing in South Kohala Environmental Court in Waimea in connection with a case initiated Feb. 20 when state conservation officers were tipped off to illegal collection activities in waters off South Kohala.

The state 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, according to the department. The vessel’s hold also contained 550 live fish, all of which were returned live to the ocean.

Tyron T. Terazono, the Masako’s captain, has yet to enter a plea to charges of 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. That is because of several hearings being continued and delays prompted by the shutdown earlier this month of the Waimea courthouse because of an employee testing positive COVID-19.

Terazono was one of two people charged in connection with the incident.

The second person, Wayne T. Newman, was sentenced in June to pay $260 in fines and fees after pleading no contest to possessing aquatic life for aquarium purposes without having a valid West Hawaii aquarium permit and possessing a “white list” species.

Civil enforcement is pending after a contested case hearing was requested May 22.

The aquatic life allegedly collected had a retail value of nearly $37,500, according 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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