Weke, which are adult oama, are seen here. Photo courtesy of Russell Sparks/DAR

Weke, which are adult oama, are seen here. Photo courtesy of Russell Sparks/DAR

Environmental Court Judge Linda Luke on July 15 imposed a fine of $250 upon a defendant who was apprehended using an illegal throw net to catch oama on O‘ahu. Additionally, the net was ordered for destruction as contraband fishing gear.

The conviction highlights the state Department of Land and Natural Resources rules and regulations on throw nets and catching of oama across the state of Hawai‘i.

The DLNR regulates the use of throw nets through administrative rules adopted by the department. Under current laws, it is illegal for anyone to possess, use or offer for sale any throw net with a mesh of less than two inches stretched.  DLNR regulates the size of stretched mesh nets in order to ensure that smaller fish have a chance to escape when throw nets are deployed.

Violations of rules regulating gill net use are petty misdemeanors punishable through the imposition of fines or imprisonment. All net violations require a mandatory court appearance and the minimum fine for a first offense is $250. Gill net rules and regulations are located at Hawaii Administrative Rule 13-75-10.

Oama. Image courtesy of DLNR

Oama. Image courtesy of DLNR

Oama are juvenile weke, which are members of the goatfish family, and are an important species to anglers as they are excellent table fare. In addition, large schools of oama in the late summer are an important food source for larger predators like papio, ulua and even green sea turtles.  Take of oama by hook-and-line fishers is limited to 50 per angler per day. DLNR’s regulations regarding oama are located at Hawaii Administrative Rules 13-95-24.

“This type of case is a high priority for DOCARE,” said Jason Redulla, acting DOCARE enforcement chief.  “In late summer, oama congregate in large schools along Hawai‘i’s shorelines, where they are easily caught using hook and line. This schooling trait makes them very susceptible to take by illegal throw net.”

He said by using a small mesh net, one fisher could wipe out the whole school.

“Any fish that are lucky enough to escape usually break up and fishers in that area will not see another school of oama until the following summer,” said Redulla, adding this case was a high priority for DLNR not just because the net was contraband, but also because of the manner in which it was used.

“I’d like to thank our DOCARE officer for volunteering his time on his day off to cite the individual, and I think it shows our dedication to resource

The public can report natural resources violations to DOCARE at 643-DLNR. Callers may remain anonymous.