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Boat owner cited for coral damage in Kailua Bay

May 11, 2014 - 9:43am

Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers have cited the owner of a 47-foot sailing vessel that caused damage to coral reef in Kailua Bay on May 2. Approximately 80 feet of chain was in the water, with about 30 to 40 feet in the coral.

A swimmer photographed and reported the damage to the DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation security officer for Kailua Pier, who immediately called the DOCARE Hawaii Branch to request that officers investigate the coral damage. West Hawaii Today broke the story of the reported damage on May 3.

Pam Miller told West Hawaii Today she saw the sailboat anchored in the bay at 8:30 a.m. When she and her friends swam by, they saw 40 to 60 feet of heavy chain from the boat resting in coral. Miller took photos, video and attempted to talk to a man sitting on the boat. He responded only with “uh-huh” to her and her friends’ comments, she said.

The anchor was in a sandy spot, Miller said, but she “could visibly see white, broken bits of coral.”

Differing from the DLNR’s version of events, Miller said she first mentioned the incident to a pier security guard, who noted that a DLNR employee was on the pier. Miller tried to talk with him, but didn’t feel he was taking the complaint seriously.

DOCARE officers investigated and photographed the damage and cited the boat owner, according to DLNR. The boat owner did not have a mooring permit.

Under Hawaii Administrative Rules Section 13-95-70, it is unlawful for any person to take, break, or damage any stony coral. The violation is a petty misdemeanor offense, subject to a criminal fine of a minimum $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense, and $1,000 for a third or subsequent offense. In addition, administrative fines of up to $1,000 per specimen may apply.

Under the newly amended coral rules, which took effect on May 1, each damaged coral head or colony less than one square meter in surface area is a separate specimen. For colonies greater than one square meter in surface area, each square meter and any remaining fraction thereof constitutes a separate specimen.

According to court records, the boat owner’s arraignment and plea is scheduled for 1 p.m. May 22 in Kona District Court. DLNR did not release the man’s name despite a request made by West Hawaii Today.