Ka‘u man arrested for illegal aquarium fish, gear

  • The 333 yellow tang and three Achilles tang officers found when they boarded a vessel Thursday. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

A 47-year-old Naalehu man is the latest Big Island resident to be cited by state officers for illegal collection of aquarium fish in with West Hawaii Regional Fisheries Management Area.

Jason Beevers was arrested Thursday after officers with the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement spotted and boarded his vessel while patrolling in waters off South Point, Ka‘u.

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The officers first spotted Beevers’ vessel Thursday morning and maintained surveillance. Later in the day, a team of officers boarded the boat, suspecting aquatic resources violations, according to the department.

Officers fully inspected the boat and the Beevers’ catch at the South Point Boat Ramp. There, they reportedly found 333 yellow tang and three paku‘iku‘i, also known as Achilles tang. Both are common species of aquarium fish.

The inspection also revealed 16 violations of Hawaii Administrative Rules relating to fishing gear and permit requirements relating to the West Hawaii Regional Fisheries Management Area (WHRFMA). The violations included conducting prohibited activities with the WHRFMA, not having all of or meeting the necessary aquarium collection permit and vessel registration requirements, possessing prohibited and unmarked gear, having illegal and unregistered lay nets.

Beevers was booked and released on his own recognizance. He will be required to appear in court on the charges, which are petty misdemeanors. He could face fines, imprisonment, and administrative penalties. All the fishing gear connected to the violations were seized as evidence, according to the department.

“We appreciate the hard work of the team of officers who were involved in this case” said DOCARE Enforcement Chief Jason Redulla. “While our officers continue to provide for everyone’s safety during the current COVID-19 crisis, we continue to be on the lookout for natural resource violations” Redulla added.

The WHRFMA regulates and protects marine resources in West Hawaii, covering an area from Upolu Point in North Kohala to South Point, also known as Ka Lae, in Ka‘u, which is approximately 147 miles, out to a depth of 600 feet.

As Beevers prepares to head to court for the alleged illegal take of aquarium fish on Thursday, a Kealakekua man is preparing for a Sept. 8 court hearing in South Kohala Environmental Court in Waimea in connection a case initiated on Feb. 20 when state conservation officers were tipped off to illegal collection activities in waters off South Kohala.

The state said it received a tip that day concerning illegal harvesting of aquarium fish off Kawaihae and conducted a commercial fishing gear and catch inspection of the vessel “Masako.” The inspection allegedly turned up aquarium fishing gear, including a small mesh net, aboard the vessel, according to the department. The vessel’s hold also contained 550 live fish, all which were returned live to the ocean.

Tyron T. Terazono, the Masako’s captain, has yet to enter a plea to charges of 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. That is due to several hearings being continued and delays prompted by the shutdown earlier this month of the courthouse in Waimea due to an employee testing positive COVID-19.

Terazono is slated to appear Sept. 8 for a hearing in which Judge Mahilani Hiatt will consider a defense motion to merge the charges, meaning he could only be convicted of or sentenced for one offense.

Terazono was one of two people charged in connection with the incident. A third person on the boat was not criminally cited.

The second person charged, Wayne T. Newman was sentenced in June to pay $260 in fines and fees after pleading no contest to possessing aquatic life for aquarium purposes without holding a valid West Hawaii aquarium permit and possessing a “white list” species.

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Civil enforcement is pending after a contested case hearing was requested May 22 when the Board of Land and Natural Resources was set to consider a proposal to split $110,000 in administrative fines among the three aboard the vessel on Feb. 20, Terazono, Newman and Kacie Terazono.

The aquatic life allegedly collected had a retail value of nearly $37,500, according to a submittal to the BLNR. Under administrative rules, a fine of up to $550,000 could have been sought for the 550 fish taken, in addition to fines for rule violations.

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