By Maui Now Staff
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources says the recent mass harvesting of sea cucumbers from near shore waters on Oʻahu and Maui has prompted them to request emergency actions to prevent the depletion of this marine resource from Hawaiʻi’s oceans. Representatives with the group Ocean Defender Hawaiʻi said a particularly disturbing case of over harvesting has been happening at Kaiona Beach in Waimanalo for the past four days. The group shared photos with Maui Now that show inflatable boats full of the delicacy being brought to shore.
Representatives say the action is unsustainable and will leave the ocean bare of food for future generations.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources today confirmed a new commercial fishery in which mass harvesting of sea cucumbers is occurring on both Oʻahu and Maui. Department officials say recent reports from the public confirm the harvesting of large quantities of sea cucumber on both islands.
“While taking sea cucumbers from the ocean is not against the law, any commercial harvesting does require a license,” according to DLNR.
Suzanne Case, DLNR Chairperson released a statement saying, “We are aware of the near depletion of this marine resource in other US coastal states and other Pacific islands. This has prompted complete closure of cucumber fisheries in numerous locations. This is an entirely new situation here in Hawaiʻi and we’re taking immediate steps to try to stop this egregious, mass, commercial exploitation of sea cucumber in Hawaiʻi.”
Jason Redulla, acting DOCARE chief also commented saying, “While we’re not at liberty to provide details about ongoing investigations, the Maui Community Fisheries Enforcement Unit has confirmed the start of a new commercial fishery for loli and other cucumber species. In some countries they are highly prized as a food source and for medicinal purposes; so there is a commercial market for certain individuals to harvest as many sea cucumbers, as quickly as they can.”
Acting DAR administrator Alton Miyasaka said this activity “threatens to deplete a key species in our reefs,” and noted that they are an important part of the ecosystem because they clean up organic matter and recycle nutrients.
State officials say there are no specific rules currently in place in Hawaiʻi that govern the take of sea cucumbers. Chairperson Case said DLNR is proposing an emergency rule that will ban any taking of sea cucumbers for the next 120 days.
According to Case, the State Board of Land and Natural Resources will consider this emergency rule at its next meeting on June 26, 2015.
“Until these rules are enacted we’re asking people who observe mass taking of sea cucumbers to call the DOCARE hotline at 643-DLNR. We’re also asking any individuals engaged in taking of mass quantities of sea cucumbers to stop immediately. It shows tremendous disrespect for one of the many valuable resources of Hawaiʻi,” said Case.