Fishing vessel owner admits error in casting in northwest preserve


POSTED: Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The owner of a fishing vessel whose crew was caught fishing in a special preservation area within the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands on June 15 regrets the incident and promises never to let it happen again.

“;We admit that they were wrong, but ... they had been doing this in ignorance,”; said Bryant Carvalho, speaking on behalf of Zenen Ozoa, the 73-year-old owner of the Ka Imi Kai. “;We would like to apologize to the people of Hawaii and to the federal government.”;

Carvalho said the captain, a longtime fisherman in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, had traditionally trolled for fish while in transit to fishing spots, and thought he was authorized to fish there.

“;We don't want to be seen as the villains,”; Carvalho said. “;It's not like he's a rogue doing fishing. The guys just should not have had lines over the stern of the boat.”;

Ozoa paid a $1,700 fine, equal to 14.2 percent of the value of the catch on board, which was estimated at about $12,000.

Ozoa is one of only seven permitted boat owners grandfathered in and allowed to take bottomfish in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument until 2011, when their permits expire and all fishing will cease.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Special Agent Bill Pickering explained that there are two areas in the monument for bottomfishing, and that within those areas there are special preservation areas.

Coast Guard Lt. John Titchen said the boat was well within a special preservation area when a U.S. Coast Guard plane flew over the boat and its crew took video and photos of the crew hauling its lines out of the water and abruptly getting under way. When the plane returned, the air crew found the fishing crew had put its lines back in the water and allegedly resumed fishing.

NOAA directed the air crew to end the boat's fishing trip and ordered them to return to Honolulu.

Timm Timmoney, 62, who with her husband has a permit to fish in the monument on their boat, Laysan, said NOAA and the Coast Guard are able to track the boat's every movement since all boats are equipped with a vessel-monitoring system.

Yet the regulations are burdensome, requiring them to call to inform NOAA 72 hours in advance when they enter the monument and that makes it impossible to comply, since they have no satellite phone.

“;We're pretty pissed off and bitter about that whole closed-off area,”; she said. “;There's not any scientific evidence that there's anything special about that (special preservation) area.”;