HONOLULU (AP) - The state Department of Land and Natural Resources says it's strengthening its ability to penalize those who intentionally or negligently damage coral on a large scale.
The department said Tuesday new rules will tighten the state's ability to enforce rules. The rules taking effect Thursday will also stiffen penalties for damage.
Coral reef provides vital habitat for fish and helps protect shoreline areas during storms. They also support Hawaii's snorkeling and scuba diving industries.
But it can take just minutes for a careless ocean user to kill coral that's taken hundreds of years to grow.
In 2009, the state fined a Maui tour company nearly $400,000 for damaging more than 1,200 coral colonies when one of its boats sank on a pristine reef at Molokini.