Hawaii’s largest BLNR fine issued to Hilo man for ‘pouring poison’ into stream

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — The largest Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) fine in Hawaii history was issued to 54-year old Wayne Spatz, of Hilo on Friday, May 14, for “pouring poison into Pāheʻeheʻe Stream” in Hilo.

BLNR officials say the poison resulted in the deaths of about 6,250 Tahitian prawns. Spatz was fined a total of $633,840.

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The BLNR says Spatz was fined $100 for each of the 6,250 prawns, $200 for unlawfully using poisonous substances and $8,640 for staff research and overtime for investigators.

Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) officer Edwin Shishido pursued the case after receiving an anonymous tip that reported someone poured “Home Defense” liquid ant poison into the stream on July 13, 2020. Officer Shishido says he is pleased the BLNR issued such a large fine.

“These crimes against people and our resources simply cannot be tolerated. All of us in law enforcement encourage people to contact us whenever they see suspicious activities happening around streams, particularly in the North Hilo District, where historically, most of the Tahitian prawn poisoning has occurred.”

Edwin Shishido, Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officer

Shishido worked with the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture to investigate the case. A biological assessment of the stream was conducted and water, soil and prawn samples were tested for specific compounds linked to ant poison.

File – Dead Tahitian prawns from Pāheʻeheʻe Stream in Hilo, Hawaii, July-September 2020. (Department of Land and Natural Resources photo)

“The prawn and soil samples tested positive for bifenthrin, which is an active ingredient used in insect repellent,” said DAR fisheries program manager David Sakoda.

There will be long-lasting impacts from this incident, according to DAR biologist Troy Sakihara.

“The illegal and unethical use of these pesticides in streams have shown to cause extremely damaging and long-lasting effects to all aquatic stream animals, native and non-native. These pesticides are highly toxic to all aquatic animals and result in extensive recovery time, particularly for native and endemic stream life. Typically, non-native and invasive species are the first to repopulate these impacted streams. Therefore, these types of activities can severely alter the natural biological conditions and overall health of the stream ecosystem. Further, human health and pets (cats) can be at risk if the prawns that are captured using pesticides are consumed.”

Troy Sakihara, Division of Aquatic Resources biologist

The $633,840 fine is the largest BLNR fine that has ever been issued for an aquatic resource violation in Hawaii.

DLNR chair Suzanne Case thanked officer Shishido, DAR legal fellow Ryan McDermott, DAR biologist Sakihara, Department of Agriculture Pesticide Branch in Hilo, Department of Agriculture Oahu Laboratory and Hawaii County Police Department officer Matt Lewis for their efforts in holding Spatz accountable.

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