Big Island diver faces charges after reporting reef damage

Jamie Winpenny

KAWAIAHAE, BIG ISLAND — On a sunny day in the near-shore waters off of the North Kohala Coast in Kawaiahae on February 15 of this year, Brooke Landt was conducting a commercial dive when she noticed another diver harvesting aquarium fish species. While such activity is perfectly legal, Landt became concerned about damage being done to the reef by the anchor from the fisherman’s boat.

Because there is a sanctioned public mooring no more than a few feet away from where the diver had placed his anchor, a mooring that allows boaters to anchor without dropping one, Everett decided to snap some photographs of the diver and the damage he was causing the reef. That decision has resulted in her facing charges for harassing a fisherman, 30 days in jail, and a substantial fine. And, potentially, felony charges.

Landt says the diver became visibly agitated by her taking the photographs, although she had no physical or verbal contact with him. He pressed charges.

Landt notified The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Aquatic Resources Division in Kona and sent her photographs at the conclusion of her dive, as requested by the DLNR’s Makai Watch program, which seeks the public’s help in identifying practices and incidents that damage Hawaii’s fragile reef ecosystem.

The Kona office of the Aquatic Resources division referred the case to the Hilo office, which then notified the prosecutor’s office, which has since elected to proceed with charges against Landt. On Friday, September 16, Landt was notified of her pending arraignment. She had to go to the Waimea police station to pick up her summons in person.

“I feel like I’m missing something here,” says Landt.

Strangely, Landt is being prosecuted under a Hawaii Revised Statute regarding freshwater fishing. The DLNR has yet to take an official position in the case, and has, as yet, been unavailable for comment.