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Federal, State Agencies Patrol Big Island Waters for Maritime Violations

July 4, 2020, 7:30 AM HST
* Updated July 3, 11:23 PM
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Photo Courtesy: USCGC William Hart

The US Coast Guard and NOAA Office of law enforcement crews conducted joint patrols in an effort to identify maritime violations and educate the public of marine life on and offshore.

From June 16-26, crews visited multiple locations, conducted 18 patrols by air, sea, and on land, contacted more than a dozen boaters, issued six safety violations with 21 incident reports, and three NOAA warnings. Additionally, the patrols performed one-on-one encounters to conduct not just enforcement, but public education of the rules under the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and Magnuson Stevens Act.

“We conducted these operations in response to complaints of recent maritime violations in the vicinity of the Big Island and to increase the local enforcement presence,” said Chief Warrant Officer Robert Holt of Coast Guard Sector Honolulu. “These joint operations were designed to enforce all applicable laws and regulations under several federal acts. Boaters are often unaware of the guidelines to give marine life a wide berth.”

The operation was conducted by NOAA, and the Coast Guard, with support from the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawai‘i Police Department, and the National Park Service. Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules crews delivered NOAA vehicles, a Coast Guard Sector Honolulu boarding team, NOAA OLE officer, and equipment to Hawai‘i Island to conduct operations onshore along the west side of the island and Hilo.

“Due to lack of federal resources on the island, coupled with the number of complaints and shared information of violations from the Hawai‘i Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement, Hawai‘i Police Department, and National Park Service, the need for a combined joint air, water, and land patrols were long overdue,” said Lt. Brian Christy, a supervisory enforcement officer with NOAA OLE Pacific Islands Division.

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The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter William Hart along with NOAA OLE officers, assisted the patrol in the joint water operations, targeting the illegal take of marine fishes within the Hawai‘i State and National Park Service designated no-take areas, patrolling along the south shore and to the east.

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“The on-water patrols also focus on presence to deter boaters from interfering with the resting Spinner Dolphins in their bay rest areas,” Christy said. “The land patrols consisted of area familiarization and patrol of nesting areas throughout the island with our federal, state, and local partners.”

Holt was appreciative of the hard work everyone provided in these operations.

“All our local agency representatives respect the unique and vital nature of the Big Island environment,” Holt said. “We came together to protect it and intend to continue regular patrols and surge operations in the area.”

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