Like the prawns themselves, the longer you look at this Hawaii poaching case – the stranger it becomes. Let’s start with the gargantuan fine.
No poaching fine in Hawai’i-state history has cost an individual more, Associated Press states. The Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources cites the total amount at $633,840 for a single perpetrator.
The crime? Wayne Keaulana Spatz, 54, stands accused of dumping ant poison into the Paaheehee Stream of North Hilo to the northeastern side of Hawaii’s Big Island. In poisoning the stream, Spatz killed an estimated 6,250 Tahitian prawns. He then distributed the poison-laden crustaceans for consumption.
It’s a lot to take in, and he HBLNR is asking Hawaii residents to halt all consumption of prawns until they can be sure other streams haven’t suffered the same fate.
Further information from the Associated Press states that Spatz is unavailable for comment. Both emails and phone numbers attributed to the perpetrator are no longer in service. This is not surprising in of itself. What is surprising, however, is that Spatz has no known address on record – for a residence or pawn distribution.
When initially sought over the fines in May, state officials were unable to contact Spatz to inform him of the impending fine, cites the Honolulu Star-Adviser.
Spatz has effectively disappeared – but he’s been slapped with the largest poaching fine in Hawaii state history regardless. It’s unlikely Spatz will be able to pay said penalties, even if he does turn up.
Hawaii Poacher Busted by Local Good Samaritan
The saga of Spatz’s horrendous crimes began last July. At the time, a Paaheehee Stream local witnessed a person pouring “Home Defense” liquid ant poison into the stream. The good Samaritan then tipped off Edwin Shishido, a Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources official.
Over the course of 2020, Shishido began investigating the area. Within, he found the soil and crustaceans themselves testing positive for bifenthrin. It’s an extremely toxic ingredient common to insect repellents.
Bifenthrin causes extensive, long-lasting damage to aquatic ecosystems. Using such pesticides to collect marine life is “understood to be a terrible method of collecting fish,” says a biologist on the investigation, Troy Sakihara. Any toxin used to kill a food source also ends up in those who consume them.
Tragically, the case has led to other discoveries of similar tactics in the area.
As for Spatz, the Hawaii poacher’s fines total comes through the state charging him $100 for each of the 6,250 prawns in his harvest. Add $8,460 for necessary research and overtime via the HDLNR, and $200 for “unlawful use of poisonous substances,” and his total becomes $633,840 – the largest in Hawaii’s history.
“The action sends a strong and clear message to anyone else who is endangering people’s health and killing life in our streams,” adds the chair of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Suzanne Case for AP. “It is illegal and morally indefensible, and anyone caught will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”