Big Island couple is fined more than $200K for illegal aquarium fishing

Aquarium Fisher's baskets underwater
Aquarium Fisher's baskets underwater(Department of Land and Natural Resources)
Updated: Feb. 26, 2021 at 7:23 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Big Island couple received a hefty fine Friday for illegal aquarium fishing off the coast of Kona.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources voted unanimously to fine Stephen Howard and Yukako Toriyama $272,000 for capturing around 250 tropical fish.

The husband and wife were ordered to pay fines for fishing and boating violations, which included a $1,000 fine per fish caught.

The incident occurred on Sept. 15.

Officials said that the fish had been stored in baskets suspended underwater.

David Sakoda DLNR Aquatic Resources said, “It seems to be a calculated operation to avoid detection to illegally harvesting aquarium fish.”

The total retail value of the fish they collected is estimated at $25,000.

All of the fish were returned to the ocean.

The land board hopes their decision to hit the couple with the highest possible fine will send a message to people who illegally collect tropical fish for the aquarium trade.

“I hope anyone engaged in illegally depleting Hawaii’s natural resources will realize the cost of breaking the law, based on the high fines levied in this case,” said Board of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case.

The couple is also facing criminal charges in Hawaii District Court.

They were not present at the land board hearing.

Officials said they had moved out of their last known address.

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