HONOLULU — Environmental Court Judge Linda Luke on Friday imposed a fine of $250 upon a defendant who was apprehended using an illegal throw net to catch oama. Additionally, the defendant’s net was ordered for destruction as contraband fishing gear. The case stems from October 2015, when an off-duty Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement (DOCARE) officer observed the defendant, Keith Sonoda, catching oama with an illegal throw net at Maunalua Bay Beach Park.
DLNR regulates the use of throw nets through administrative rules adopted by the Department. Under current laws, it is illegal for anyone to possess, use or offer for sale any throw net with a mesh of less than two inches stretched. DLNR regulates the size of stretched mesh nets in order to ensure that smaller fish have a chance to escape when throw nets are deployed.
Violations of rules regulating gill net use are petty misdemeanors punishable through the imposition of fines or imprisonment. All net violations require a mandatory court appearance and the minimum fine for a first offense is $250. Gill net rules and regulations are located at Hawaii Administrative Rule 13-75-10.
“This type of case is a high priority for DOCARE,” said Jason Redulla, acting DOCARE enforcement chief. “In late summer, oama congregate in large schools along Hawaii’s shorelines, where they are easily caught using hook and line. This schooling trait makes them very susceptible to take by illegal throw net,” Redulla added. “Using a small mesh net, one fisher can wipe out the whole school,” he continued. “Any fish that are lucky enough to escape usually break up and fishers in that area will not see another school of oama until the following summer. Accordingly, this case was a high priority for us not just because the net was contraband, but also because of the manner in which it was used. I’d like to thank our DOCARE officer for volunteering his time on his day off to cite the individual, and I think it shows our dedication to resource conservation and pono fishing.”
Oama are juvenile weke, which are members of the goatfish family, and are an important species to anglers as they are excellent table fare. In addition, large schools of oama in the late summer are an important food source for larger predators like papio, ulua and even green sea turtles. Take of oama by hook-and-line fishers is limited to 50 per angler per day. DLNR’s regulations regarding oama are located at Hawaii Administrative Rules 13-95-24.
The public can report natural resources violations to DOCARE at 643-DLNR. Callers may remain anonymous.
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DLNR Communications specialist
Phone: (808) 587-0320