- Posted May 13, 2014 by
Hawaii environmentalist attacked by diver
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, MONDAY, MAY 12, 2014
CONTACT: JOAN LLOYD ON MAUI AT 879-8575
Rene Umberger on Maui at 875-8759
Captain Mike Nakachi at Aloha Divers, Big Island, 640-3871
Mike Long at Sea Shepherd 207-653-3652
REEF VISIT TURNS VIOLENT ON KONA COAST
KONA, HAWAII— Violence erupted when an aquarium collector rushed another diver for filming him as he captured coral reef species. The aquarium trade is under pressure in Hawaii, taking 98% of its stock from the wild, including iconic endemic species that leave Hawaii reefs by the millions each year.
He ripped away her breathing device, fifty feet down.
Wildlife officers said aquarium collector Jay Lovell will be charged with reckless endangerment, along with Lovell’s complaint for harassment.
Rene Umberger, a PADI certified dive instructor with 10,000 scuba dives in Hawaii, is an aquarium-ban activist. She said, “I was careful to stay clear of his working area, about 30 feet away. He saw me and snapped, darting full speed. The video shows his face as he attacked me. He hit my nose and ripped my regulator from my mouth, leaving me 50 feet down with no air. With any less training or experience I would have drowned.”
Alleged assailant Jay Lovell claimed that Umberger had affected the behavior of yellow tangs and other exotic reef fishes he was scooping into his container. He and another aquarium collector were using “tickle” sticks about 8 feet long to scare colorful fish from their hiding places. Wildlife officers said they had to file a “harassing a fisherman” complaint against Umberger, but the video documentation makes that charge questionable. Umberger pointed out that Hawaii wildlife management leveled the same charge against Brooke Everett in 2012, who encountered Jim Lovell (the alleged assailant’s brother) near Kohala with chains, nets and anchors in the coral. Everett posted photos of that incident on Facebook, until DLNR warned her to remove those photos.
Captain Mike Nakachi said, “We went holo holo with family and friends to document conditions on our Kona reefs. We are all reef people, and our guests included Mike Long, Sea Shepherd Reef Defense Director, and Robert Wintner, who owns Snorkel Bob’s. We had divers and snorkelers in the water, and I believe most of them saw the attack. We were very disappointed to say the least, and we left immediately to avoid further danger.”
Robert Wintner said, “I went to take pictures of fish. It’s what I do. The attack was a violent reaction to a reef visitor with a camera. How many places sell or rent cameras to divers and snorkelers? The reef at Keawaiki is designated OPEN. It’s part of Hawaii’s public trust and not a private reserve for aquarium collectors who demand that nobody watch them.”
Mike Long said, “We went to document effects of coastal pollution and the aquarium trade on reef species and habitat along the Kona Coast, and we did. Mr. Lovell’s complaint may have been predictable, but the video of this attack reveals a far darker side of the situation.”