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New rules on coral damage take effect today

May 1, 2014 - 6:55am

The Department of Land and Natural Resources’ changes to rules regulating the taking and selling of certain marine resources take effect today.

“The purpose of the amendments is to strengthen the rules and stiffen penalties for intentional or negligent large-scale damage to stony coral and live rock, such as by vessel groundings, introduction of sediments, biological contaminants, and other pollutants. It remains unlawful for any person to take, break, or damage any stony coral or live rock,” DLNR officials said Tuesday in a press release. “It’s also unlawful to sell stony coral or live rocks.”

Frazer McGilvray, administrator for the Division of Aquatic Resources, said the rules “tighten up” the state’s ability to enforce damage to a habitat “that provides millions of dollars in ecosystem services through fishing and tourism.”

Stony corals belong to the Order Scleractinia, marine corals which generate a hard skeleton, that are native to the Hawaiian Islands. All reef corals, including mushroom corals, belong to this order. Live rock is defined as any natural hard substrate to which marine life is visibly attached or affixed. Virtually every hard substrate in nearshore waters has something living attached to it.

The full text of the rule is available or at any Division of Aquatic Resources office.

No one attended a December hearing in West Hawaii on the proposed rule change.