A man owes Hawaii more than $600,000 after killing 6,250 Tahitian prawns in a stream using ant poison.
Wayne Keaulana Spatz, 54, was charged $100 per prawn that he killed by the state of Hawaii.
The creatures resemble large shrimp and some species are edible.
According to the Associated Press, Mr Spatz owes a total of $633,840 to the state for killing off the creatures. The fines include additional penalties for the overtime pay given to staff who were tasked with collecting evidence against him.
The fine is the largest ever given to someone for violating the state's aquatic resource laws, according to state officials.
“Over the past week, we’ve received additional reports of individuals using pesticides or chemicals used in pesticides to poison streams for the sole purpose of collecting prawns to sell for human consumption,” wildlife department chair Suzanne Case said in a release. “It is illegal, despicable, and morally indefensible and anyone caught will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
State officials said they learned about the massive prawn killings through an anonymous tip in July.
The tipster apparently saw Mr Spatz pouring poison into the Paheehee Stream in North Hilo.
Samples of soil and dead marine life tested positive for bifenthrin, which is an active ingredient used in insect repellent, according to officials.
“The illegal and unethical use of these pesticides in streams have shown to cause extremely damaging and long-lasting effects to all aquatic stream animals, native and non-native,” a state official said.
“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,” an official said in a release.
According to the Honolulu Star, officials say it is unlikely that Mr Spatz will be able to pay the penalties. They said he had no known address, and that they were unable to contact him regarding the fine.
State authorities have warned residents not to eat freshwater Tahitian prawns if they were not sure of their origins, as other cases have been documented of people using pesticides to kill the creatures for the purpose of selling them as food items.
Ms Case praised the officials who tracked down the incident and said she hoped the fine would serve as a deterrent to future would-be poisoners.
“The action sends a strong and clear message to anyone else who is endangering people’s health and killing life in our streams,” she said.
She said that since the fine against Mr Spatz was issued, her department had received calls reporting other instances of poisonings in Hawaii's streams.