HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is proposing more than $100,000 in fines for three Big Island residents accused of poaching aquarium fish.
Animal rights activists believe it’s the first time the state is going after the aquarium trade. But they said the fines should be four or five times higher.
“Their licenses need to be suspended. It’s outrageous that to this day they can continue to engage in potential illegal activity," said Inga Gibson, policy director for Pono Advocacy LLC.
The fines are based on a citation issued by DLNR officers back in February when they inspected Tyron Terazono’s boat the Masako at Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor.
According to the DLNR, the officers found 550 aquarium fish in several holding tanks on the boat. They said Terazono -- a tropical fish wholesaler -- caught the fish in the West Hawaii Fishery Management area, which is off limits for commercial aquarium fishing.
Along with Terazono who is being fined $38,600, the DLNR wants to fine his wife Kacie $37,800 and his friend Wayne Newman $38,000.
All three are contesting the fines.
Terazono previously told Hawaii News Now that he caught the fish outside the fishery management area and that he was simply passing through the conservation district when the DLNR cited him.
But cultural practicioner Mike Nakachi said he watched Terazono operate in the fishery for more than 2 hours that day.
“He was well within the fisheries replenishment area," Nakachi said.
"The reaction was ‘nah, this isn’t happening.’ I can’t believe this guy is that brazen to be in an area that he knows is closed.
Big Island Prosecutors have also filed criminal charges against Terazono and Newman but the cases are on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.