The state Land Board approved rule changes banning the feeding of cats and other predators Friday afternoon.
The rule changes come in response to an out of control feral cat population at Keehi Small Boat Harbor and other harbors that supporters say has caused health and environmental problems. Keehi's feral cat population is believed to have gone from 100 to 150 in a little more than a month.
"What bothers a lot of us that do frequent the area or the people that live there is the smell of the urine, feces. A lot of flies so it's a health issue," said Joni Bagood, of the Mokauea Fishermen's Association.
Animal advocates and cat lovers showed up in force to the marathon meeting.
"These proposed rules are inhumane in content, contrary to public opinion and invalid in form," said Brian Cortes, of the Humane Society of the United States.
Violators could be fined up to $1,000. The changes need to be approved by the governor.
Part of the new rules allow the state to destroy the predators, but officials didn't specify exactly how. That part of the rule won't be implemented until Jan 1, 2019 to give the state and animal advocates time to work out a relocation plan.
"The rule is not about killing cats. The rule is about making sure we have clean and healthy harbors in public places," said Suzanne Case, chairwoman of the Board of Land and Natural Resources.
Animal advocates say they prefer large scale trap, neuter and release programs to let the population die off naturally. But that method can take years
"We need to put more attention as far as the harbor cats, taking care, letting the feral cat caretakers take care of them, manage the colonies, entrapment and release," said Robin Swanson, who feeds feral cats.
“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," said Stephanie Kendrick, Public Policy Advocate in a statement.
It's estimated that Oahu's feral cat population is as much as 300,000.