HONOLULU (KHON2) — Two aquarium fishers on the Big Island were fined on Friday relating to an illegal aquarium fishing incident in Kona last year.
Husband and wife, Stephen Howard and Yukako Toriyama, were ordered to pay $272,000 in civil fines for fishing and boating violations that took place in September 2020. These are record fines for these types of violations, according to the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources.
In September, DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) officers received a tip that Howard was seen launching his boat from the Honokohau Small Boat Harbor and was fishing within the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area.
Howard left two female divers in open water during the incident — one of them was Toriyama, DLNR said in news release. The other diver told DOCARE investigators that Howard had dropped them to dive and collect fish, and when they surfaced, his boat was gone.
Howard had been ordered by enforcement officers to return to shore, and when the female divers were not seen, a multi-agency marine search and rescue operation ensued. The search was called off after the women were spotted later that day with their dive gear at a gas station in Kona.
DLNR said the diver helped officers locate the aquarium fish that Howard and Toriyama caught: 235 fish of ten different species. All of the fish were returned to the ocean.
Howard was fined for sixteen fishing and boating violations. Toriyama was fined for nine Hawaii Administrative Rules (HAR) violations. The total retail value of the fish they collected is estimated at $24,730. Howard and Toriyama are also facing criminal charges in Hawaii District Court.