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Diving poachers abandoned in open ocean

A pair of scuba divers were abandoned in open water off the coast of Hawaii after their boat was stopped and turned back to port in connection with illegal fishing for aquariums. However, this is not the end of the trouble. As it turns out, the abandoned diving couple and the boat’s skipper will answer
Published: March 3, 2021 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 22:05
Diving poachers abandoned in open ocean

A pair of scuba divers were abandoned in open water off the coast of Hawaii after their boat was stopped and turned back to port in connection with illegal fishing for aquariums.

However, this is not the end of the trouble. As it turns out, the abandoned diving couple and the boat’s skipper will answer for poaching and will have to pay a record fine of $272,000! And all this even before the case goes to criminal court.

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The entire incident occurred on September 15, 2020, near the town of Kona in waters that make up the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area. At the time, the fine was imposed on Stephen Howard and Yukako Toriyama, following a unanimous decision by the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR).

Howard, described as an aquarium collector, left Honokohau harbour and dropped off his wife and another woman for a dive. Shortly after, officers intercepted the boat and ordered him to return to port, which he did – leaving the two divers in the water.

A woman accompanying Howard’s wife on the dive told investigators that they could not locate Howard or the boat after they surfaced. When it was realised what had happened, an extensive search and rescue operation was organised and was completed late in the afternoon when the women were found on land with their diving equipment. It turned out that they had returned on their own to Kona and were spotted at a gas station.

Biologists from the Department of Law Enforcement at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and the Hawaii Department of Water Resources checked 235 fish that divers had already caught and left on the boat. They identified 10 species with an estimated retail value of $24,730 and then released the fish back into the sea.

Howard was fined for 16 fishing and boating violations and Toriyama was fined for nine violations of the Hawaii Administrative Rules (HAR). The pair are now preparing to face criminal charges in Hawaii District Court.

Based on the hefty fines imposed in this case, I hope everyone involved in plundering Hawaii’s natural resources realizes the consequences,” said Suzanne Case, president of the BLNR

Photo: Hawaii DLNR

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About author

Marcin Pawełczyk
Marcin’s journey with diving has been an adventure. Starting as a recreational diver, he soon found himself drawn to the fascinating stories and mysteries of Baltic wrecks. After gaining experience, Marcin decided to go beyond just leisurely exploration and took his training up a notch by completing the TMX course, allowing him to explore even deeper and uncover the secrets of inaccessible places. His next challenge has been cave diving, where he is honing his skills to become a certified diver. Not content to simply take in the breathtaking beauty of underwater life, Marcin has also embraced underwater photography since 2018, capturing stunning shots that bring these worlds alive for those who are unable to experience them first-hand. Marcin’s passion for the underwater has taken him far and is sure to continue doing so as he dives into new depths and captures breathtaking images.
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