The state Land Board unanimously granted a contested case proceeding to three Big Island residents facing a combined $110,000 in administrative fines for alleged illegal aquarium fish collecting earlier this year off the South Kohala Coast.
Tyron Terazono, Kacie Terazono and Wayne Newman each petitioned for a contested case hearing over the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ proposal to split the six-figure fine among the three for the alleged unlawful collection of 550 reef fish off Kawaihae in February.
The proceeding won’t be heard by a hearings officer, which is typically appointed to handle the matter, however.
“Because of the interest in this matter among the board members and the members of the public, we could approve their request for contested case but not assign it to a hearings officer and bring it back before the board…” said Board of Land and Natural Resources Chairwoman Suzanne Case during a live-streamed meeting Friday morning. “I think that’s a good idea and I think this is the kind of situation where i think the interest of the board in really understanding what went on and hearing the matter directly is justified.”
A date was not set, however, Case suggested the proceeding could be heard after and not as part of the board’s official meetings.
Under the department’s enforcement action proposal, Tyron Terazono would pay $38,600, Kacie Terazono $37,800 and Wayne Newman $38,000.
The aquatic life allegedly collected illegally within the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area had a retail value of nearly $37,500 with yellow tang accounting for more than $32,000 of that.
Under administrative rules, a fine of up to $550,000 alone could have been sought for the 550 fish taken. Fines for rule violations could have been an additional $9,000 for Tyron Terazono, $6,000 for Kacie Terazono, and $7,000 for Newman.
The department said it received a tip Feb. 20 regarding illegal harvesting of aquarium fish off Kawaihae and conducted a commercial fishing gear and catch inspection of the vessel “Masako” when it returned to the Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor with three on board. The inspection allegedly turned up aquarium fishing gear and the live fish, all of which were returned to the ocean.
The vessel was not marked for aquarium collection and none of the people on board had West Hawaii aquarium collection permits, according to the submittal.
At the time, there was also a total prohibition on all commercial aquarium collection within the area, which extends from Ka Lae (South Point) in Ka‘u to Upolu Point in North Kohala after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled them invalid in fall 2017.
Following the inspection, Tyron Terazono, the vessel’s captain, was charged with possessing aquarium collecting gear or taking, possessing aquatic life for aquarium purposes without holding a valid West Hawaii aquarium permit and possessing a “white list” species. An arraignment and plea hearing slated for Tuesday was continued to June 30.
Newman was charged with possessing aquatic life for aquarium purposes without holding a valid West Hawaii aquarium permit and possessing a “white list” species. The third person was not issued a criminal citation. Newman pleaded no contest to the charges on June 2 and was fined $200.