Not only is this story about the most expensive poaching fine in documented history, this story is also about what might be the most expensive shrimp dinner of all time (even though prawns aren’t actually scientifically shrimp, they’re close enough for the sake of this story.)
Perpetrator Wayne Spatz was reportedly issued the largest fine in Hawaii state history for dumping ant poison into a stream to harvest giant prawns.
The bill for his efficient but highly illegal and frowned upon method of take?
A whopping $633,840 courtesy of the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources.
According to DNLR Board Chair Suzanne Case, they were sending a clear message:
“The action today sends a strong and clear message to anyone else who is endangering people’s health and killing life in our streams.”
A deeper look into the total value of the fine shows that the man is being charged $100 for each of the $100 of the 6,250 prawns he illegally harvested. He was also fined $200 for the unlawful use of poisonous substances and $8,640 to pay for staff research and overtime necessary to solve the case.
Complicating the issue is that the Tahitian prawns that Spatz poached from the stream are not a native species. They were introduced to two different streams on two different Hawaiian islands back in the 1950s. By the 1970s the prawns had spread rapidly and they are now present in 42 streams on 8 Hawaiian islands.
Once hatched, prawn larvae wash out to sea, but just before reaching maturity the prawns return to the freshwater habitat where they were born and begin recolonizing in preparation for the next generation of prawns.
That is unless some asshole named Wayne wipes out your entire colony with any poison.
Plus, it can’t be safe to eat something you just poisoned to death, can it?
Anyways, because the species is considered invasive, there is no bag limit on Tahitian prawns like with other native shrimp or prawns, but common and legal methods of take include nets, spears, and spotlights – not just dumping poison into the water.
Spatz didn’t invent this method for shrimping though. In fact, a rise in this technique is why officials chose to make an example out of Spatz. Let’s hope a fine this hefty prevents other folks from being an asshole like Wayne.
“These pesticides are highly toxic to all aquatic animals and result in extensive recovery time, particularly for native and endemic stream life. Typically, non-native and invasive species are the first to repopulate these impacted streams.
Therefore, these types of activities can severely alter the natural biological conditions and overall health of the stream ecosystem. Further, human health and pets can be at risk if the prawns that are captured using pesticides are consumed.”