Coast Guard continues annual operation Koa Kai off Island of Hawaii

Coast Guard File Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle

Coast Guard File Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle

HONOLULU — Operation Koa Kai ran through the month of November as a means to meet Sector Honolulu’s goal of increasing Coast Guard presence on the Big Island.

Operation Koa Kai is an annual operation led by Coast Guard Sector Honolulu & 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 through patrols, training & interagency cooperation.

“The operation ran a total of 19 days throughout the month of November resulting in 133 underway hours,” said Chief Warrant Officer Omar Perez, Sector Honolulu’s Enforcement division officer. “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 7 law enforcement patrols over the course of 17 flight hours.”

While patrolling the Big Island, Sector Honolulu’s MSST team worked with NOAA Law Enforcement officers to ensure the regions protected marine species, such as Hawaii’s native Spinner Dolphin population, were provided with the necessary protection to remain healthy under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a law prohibiting hunting, harassing, capturing, or killing a marine mammal.

Recently, local federal and state partners have reported a significant number of potential violations along with decreasing fish stocks within the sensitive reef environments surrounding the Big Island of Hawaii.

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,” said Perez. “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 scchonolulu@uscg.mil.

To report a potential violation to the Marine Mammal Protection Act or marine wildlife emergencies, contact the NOAA Marine Wildlife Hotline (888) 256-9840 or email video and photo evidence to respectwildlife@noaa.gov.

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