A Kealakekua couple has agreed to pay $76,400 in fines for illegally collecting 550 aquarium fish last year off Kawaihae.
Tyron and Kacie Terazono agreed to pay the administrative fines as part of a settlement after dropping their request for a contested case hearing on the matter last May, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Tyron and Kacie Terazono were two of the three people on board a vessel boarded Feb. 20, 2020, after Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement officers were tipped off to illegal collection activities in West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area waters off South Kohala.
When the Terazonos, and the third person, Wayne Newman, returned to Kawaihae, officers conducted a commercial fishing gear and catch inspection of the vessel “Masako.” The inspection reportedly 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 Terazono and Newman were each criminally cited in connection with the case while Kacie Terazono was not. Tyron Terazono pleaded guilty to 11 counts last fall and was sentenced to pay $5,500 in fines and serve 30 days in jail. Newman pleaded no contest to two counts and was ordered to pay $260 in fines and fees.
The aquatic life collected had a retail value of nearly $37,500, according to a submittal to the Board of Land and Natural Resources. 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.
The Board of Land and Natural Resources heard the case against the Terazonos and Newman last May. The couple initially requested a contested case hearing, after the Division of Aquatic Resources had recommended the $76,400 administrative fines for the two. The total fine recommended for the three was $110,000.
The department did not respond to a request for clarification on Newman, including the status of the civil enforcement.
“We too questions why the third defendant, Wayne Newman, does not appear to have been subject to these fines,” said Inga Gibson with For the Fishes. “We’re disappointed that the state didn’t insist on additional fines given that they could have been facing $1,000 per animal, a fine up to $550,000.”