The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources found an illegal lay net estimated at 1,000 feet long in Kaneohe Bay on Sunday.
Lay nets are a type of gill net that catches fish by allowing their heads to pass through the holes and then snares the gills as the fish try to escape by swimming backwards.
DLNR found several dead hammerhead sharks in the unattended lay net.
“The problem with lay nets are that they are just so uber efficient. They kill indiscriminately, they kill everything that gets caught in them,” said Hawaii Wildlife Fund Executive Director Hannah Bernard.
“If it’s left for too long, it will drown or die in the net. So we’re losing protected species. Coral gets broken when the nets are retrieved. People can even get entangled in them if they’re not managed and watched.”
Bernard explained that dead fish left in lay nets can also attract sharks.
According to the state Division of Aquatic Resources, it is illegal to leave any gill left unattended without checking it every two hours. The longest a gill net can be left in the water in a 24-hour period is four hours.
If the animals caught in the net are threatened or endagered species, the fine for a first offense can be up to $5,000. In addition, a fine of up to $5,000 can be added for each threatened or endangered animal taken, harmed or killed.
In all other situations, the fine for a first offense can be up to $1,000 with an additional fine of up to $1,000 for every animal taken, killed or injured.
In a statement, DLNR officials said illegal lay nets are an ongoing issue, especially on the windward side of Oahu.
DLNR collected a boat as evidence, but there are no owner of the lay net has been identified.
Anyone with information regarding the illegal lay net can call the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources and Enforcement at 643-3567 or download the DLNRTip mobile app.