Coast Guard Patrols off Big Island 19 Days in November
Potential federal law violations by recreational and commercial fleets were observed by the U.S. Coast Guard during a patrol operation conducted in Big Island waters this year, officials reported Tuesday, Nov. 23.
Operation Koa Kai is an annual operation led by Coast Guard Sector Honolulu and Marine Safety and Security Team 91107 and ensures that recreational and commercial fleets continue to operate securely, safely and in accordance with federal laws and regulations. This year, the operation was conducted in November as a means to meet Sector Honolulu’s goal of increasing USCG presence on the Big Island.
“The operation ran a total of 19 days throughout the month of November resulting in 133 underway hours,” said Sector Honolulu’s Enforcement division officer Chief Warrant Officer Omar Perez. “While underway, the MSST conducted 38 maritime security and response patrols and two interagency patrols with our law enforcement partners over at NOAA and DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement. Air crews from Air Station Barbers Point also conducted seven law enforcement patrols over the course of 17 flight hours.”
While patrolling the Big Island, Sector Honolulu’s MSST team worked with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Law Enforcement officers to ensure the region’s protected marine species, such as the native spinner dolphin, were provided with the necessary protection to remain healthy under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The law prohibits hunting, harassing, capturing or killing a marine mammal.
Recently, local, federal and state partners reported a significant number of potential violations along with decreasing fish stocks within the sensitive reef environments surrounding the Big Island.
Such activity is not only in violation of several laws and regulations, but also exposes unsuspecting members of the public to danger by means of inexperienced recreational charter operators, insufficient safety equipment and unsatisfactory vessel material conditions. Owners and operators of illegal charter boats can face up to $27,500 in fines for operations.
“Passengers should refrain from embarking on charters and tours from captains who do not advertise Coast Guard certification or possess valid merchant mariner credentials,” Perez said. “The credentials must be present at all times on all voyages; the dangers from engaging with unlicensed captains can pose a serious threat to life.”
To report an alleged illegal charter operation, contact the Coast Guard Sector Honolulu Command Center at 808-842-2603 or [email protected].
To report a potential violation to the Marine Mammal Protection Act or marine wildlife emergencies, contact the NOAA Marine Wildlife Hotline at 888-256-9840 or email video and photo evidence to [email protected].