Help protect Hawaii's coral reefs

The state of Hawaii is reminding the public to help protect its marine environment by reporting any suspected cases of people using chlorine or bleach to catch fish or other marine life.

Fishing with poisonous substances (such as hypochlorous acid or any of its salts, including bleaches and bleaching powders) is a Class C felony punishable by more than one year in jail, $10,000 in fines or both. Offenders also may be required to pay restitution and may lose their boat and/or gear to forfeiture.

"Using chlorine bleach to take marine life in our ocean waters is a serious offense and an unethical and wasteful way to feed a family or make a living," said Peter Young, director of the Department of Land & Natural Resources.

Recently, bleached areas have been reported in waters off different islands, and DLNR urges the public to report any suspected illegal activity.

"Chemical fishing devastates and kills all living organisms — every fish, lobster, clam, crab, eel, worm and cowry shell exposed to the chlorine — and not just the target species being fished for," said Gary Moniz, administrator of the DLNR’s Division of Conservation & Resources Enforcement.

"An ethical fisherman would never even consider destroying part of a reef just to put money in his pocket. This kill-all method is also inconsistent with Hawaiian tradition to take only what you need and to leave behind enough to be there for the future," said Moniz.

In January 1998, DOCARE officers received an anonymous tip, and two men were arrested off Oahu’s Ka Iwi coastline for fishing with chlorine. The two were found in possession of chlorine, a highly poisonous chemical, along with a variety of reef fish. Nets, scuba equipment, various gear and the boat used in the offense were forfeited, and the individuals were fined and given community service time.

The department relies on tips from the public to help it catch chemical fishers, Moniz said.

The Division of Conservation & Resources Enforcement’s 24-hour hot line can be reached at 587-0077, or neighbor island residents can dial 0 and ask the operator for Enterprise 5469.

If you reach a recording, leave a detailed message, and a dispatcher will call you back. Give as much information as possible by identifying the location, the type of vehicle or vessel being used and any license or ID number observed, along with a description of activities, the date and time and a description of the suspect.

SOURCE – Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources

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