By day and by night, the Community Fisheries Enforcement Unit patrol North Maui waters. The group formed a year ago and consists of three full-time state officers plus civilian officers dedicated to enforcing state fishing laws.
"Look over your shoulder. We have enforcement now," said Department of Land & Natural Resources Chairman William Aila. "I will let you know that these officers occasionally go out of the boundaries to do things. I want people to understand that they are dedicated."
The program is the first of its kind in Hawaii. The Castle Foundation and Conservation International provided the funding for a specialized boat and DLNR provided officers who cover Hulu Island to Baldwin Beach Park.
The officer cite anyone who were overfishing or fails to release smaller fish and he'e back into the ocean. But, the biggest offense remains lay nets.
"On the island of Maui, there's no lay netting allowed. It's only surround netting. What people were doing, they were doing the lay netting technique. We've been able to curb and curtail that activities," said DOCARE Maui Branch Chief Clarence Matt Yamamoto.
Just in its first year, the enforcement officers wrote 41 citations. That's higher than last year. Officers also gave out three warnings, up from zero last year and they also started 60 investigations. Significantly higher than just 17 last year.
The task force on Maui will be funded through the end of the year, but DLNR hopes the legislature will fund it for much longer.
Because of the program's successes on Maui, Aila says he hopes to expand it to the rest of the counties and he's hoping he'll be able to find the funding to be able to do that.