The Department of Land and Natural Resources has been investigating and has now confirmed a new commercial fishery in which mass harvesting of sea cucumbers is occurring on both Oahu and Maui. Additionally, recent reports from the public confirm the harvesting of large quantities of sea cucumber on both Oahu and Maui. While taking sea cucumbers from the ocean is not against the law, any commercial harvesting does require a license.

Suzanne Case, DLNR Chairperson said, “We are aware of the near depletion of this marine resource in other U.S. 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 Hawaii and we’re taking immediate steps to try to stop this egregious, mass, commercial exploitation of sea cucumber in Hawaii.”

Staff from the DLNR Divisions of Aquatic Resources (DAR) and Conservation & Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) are working on emergency actions to stop this wanton destruction of sea cucumber species in Hawaii. Jason Redulla, acting DOCARE chief commented, “While we’re not at liberty to provide details about ongoing investigations, the Maui Community Fisheries Enforcement Unit (CFEU) 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.”

“This activity threatens to deplete a key species on our reefs in areas of mass harvest,” explained Alton Miyasaka, DAR acting administrator. “Sea cucumbers are important for the ecosystem because they clean up organic matter and recycle nutrients,” Miyasaka said.

Currently Hawaii has no specific rules governing the take of sea cucumbers. Chairperson Case added, “Until very recently this was not an issue. We’re proposing an emergency rule that will ban any taking of sea cucumbers for the next 120 days. The State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) 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 Hawaii.”