Big Island fisherman arrested for illegal aquatic collection and reckless endangerment

Big Island fisherman arrested for illegal aquatic collection and reckless endangerment
The illegal fish were seized by officials. (Source: DLNR)

KONA, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Kailua-Kona man faces multiple charges tied to aquarium fishing expedition off West Hawaii.

Steve Howard, 57, was arrested Tuesday for possessing illegal collection gear, and resisting arrest. 

State enforcement officers say they found 235 fish in an underwater collection basket. The estimated value of the fish was about $17,000.

Among the species in the illegal haul included Yellow Tangs, Kole, Lavender Tang and more.

Officials say even though the ban on aquarium collection in West Hawaii is clear -- collectors continue to skirt the law.

“Illegal collection of aquarium fish in West Hawaii is turning into a persistent problem. This is the third arrest we’ve seen associated with illegal aquarium harvest in West Hawaii this year, which indicates this is a larger problem that the department is going to have to deal with," Administrator of the Division of Aquatic Resources Brian Neilson said.

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case added, “Aquarium collection in West Hawaii is not permitted at this time. Everyone knows the rules and the industry is under a microscope legally, procedurally, and physically. Why would anyone blatantly flaunt the law to continue to fish illegally for aquarium fish in Kona is beyond me. It’s absolutely wrong. Big kudos to our DOCARE and DAR teams, that nailed this one.”

Howard also faces charges of reckless endangerment after allegedly abandoning two female scuba divers near the supposed catch site. The pair was later found at a Kona gas station.

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