picture courtesy of Hawaii Fishing News
By EnviroWatch, Inc.
EnviroWatch, Inc. has received several phone calls reporting an alleged incident involving electric shock equipment for taking aquatic life from Wailau stream, Moloka'i. The callers expressed concern that a cover up was occuring in the investigation of a State employee and his son, a Federal employee. This concern resulted in the request to EnviroWatch, Inc., to check into the possible cover up in the investigation. EnviroWatch, Inc. was told that Wesley Wong, Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), Maui Branch Chief and his son Matthew Wong, United States Geological Survey (USGS), were suspects in the alleged shocking activity.
EnviroWatch, Inc. was informed that the Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement (DOCARE), Maui Division, has confiscated two electrical shocking devices. EnviroWatch, Inc. submitted a request for information to Mr. Keith Keau, DOCARE, Maui Branch Chief, which seeks information on field arrest reports, citations, final disposition of investigation, disposition of evidence and photographs. Photographs of the evidence are of particular interest of EnviroWatch, Inc., as they may be used for a comparison against the descriptions and drawings provided by the witnesses.
EnviroWatch, Inc. phoned Mr. Bill Puleloa, Aquatic Biologist stationed on Moloka'i, and left a message requesting information on the alleged shocking incident. Mr. Puleloa returned our call and informed us that DOCARE, Maui Branch was investigating the alleged incident and refered EnviroWatch, Inc. to contact Mr. Keith Keau, DOCARE, Maui Branch Chief, which we again did. EnviroWatch, Inc has not received any response to our initial request for information and photographs or our follow-up request for information.
EnviroWatch, Inc. contacted Mr. Timothy Johns, Chairman, State of Hawai'i, Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and provided him with the information we obtained. The Chairman acknowledged that a possible conflict of interest did exist and requested the Attorney General's Office to take over the investigation, which they did on May 18, 1999.
A witness to the alledged incident, Mr. Mitchell Duvauchelle, told EnviroWatch, Inc. that he was concerned that Mr. Michael Mangca, Moloka'i DOCARE Officer had attended a May 19, 1999 community meeting and requested personal information from him. He was also concerned that Mr. Bill Everson, Maui Forestry Officer, (under Wesley Wong) attended the meeting and asked him for descriptions of the suspects. Mitchell said he felt intimidated, so he provided the information to Mangca and Everson. This occured the day after DOCARE was supposedly removed from the investigation.
Mitchell reported to EnviroWatch, Inc., that he was in Wailau Valley searching for two hunting dogs he lost the previous day. He said he heard voices coming from the stream area and went to see who it was. He said he saw two men standing next to the stream. An older man and a younger man. The older man stood next to a black hexagon shaped box, which was about six feet long. He said the box had two wires coming out of it, one red the other black. The wires were entwined, but were spaced apart at the ends where each wire was stretched across the bottom of the stream and the excess wire was coiled on the bank of the stream.
Mitchell reported that the older man operated some type of switch in the box and after he did this, the younger man went into the stream with a net and scooped up prawns (shrimp), o'opu (freshwater fish) and hihiwai (fresh water limpet) that were stunned and floating around in the stream.
Mitchell said he approached the two men and asked if they worked for the State Department of Water or Aquatic Resources; they said "No". He said he asked them how they got there and they said "by helicopter". Mitchell said he asked what their names were, but the two men just stood there looking at each other, without answering. Mitchell reported that he saw two mesh bags about the size of large trash bags, one was filled with o'opu and prawns, the other with hihiwai. On the bank of the stream, Mitchell said he saw two backpacks and a white bucket. Knowing that it was illegal to use shocking devices in streams, Mitchell said he became outraged and let them know how he felt. He then left the scene to continue looking for his dogs. Later that same day, Molokai residents Simoi Luafalemana, his son Justin and several others were working their way up the stream, gathering hihiwai for their families. Simoi uses a dive mask when gathering hihiwai and when he reached a certain point in the stream, he described seeing whitish lines on the rocks and the area was barren of aquatic life. He did see dead prawns of various sizes floating down the stream and said the prawns appeared to have been cooked. At that point, he stuck his head out of the water and saw two men.
Simoi got out of the water and appoached the older man who was smoking a cigar. Simoi reported that he saw two mesh bags filled with hihiwai, o'opu, and prawns. Simoi was so impressed by the large amount of the two men's catch that he remarked that even if his whole group were to gather all day, they wouldn't be able to gather the amount seen in the two bags. Meanwhile, Justin approached and spoke with the younger man, who told Justin his name was Mat.
Looking on the bank of the stream, Simoi said he saw a long black plastic box shaped like a "stop sign". Simoi reported that the black box would require two men to carry, that even a husky guy like himself would not be able to hoist that box. Other members of Simoi's group were Alan Kong and his teenage son Frank. Alan reported that he saw several dozen hihiwai of various sizes, detached from the rocks and trapped in the streams eddies. Alan said he has never seen anything like this before, in all his years of gathering in this stream.
Mitchell reported that later in the day he saw a helicopter approach the area and land in a taro patch next to the stream. Mitchell said the pilot stayed in the helicopter and the two men loaded their equipment into the bluish colored helicopter and left the valley. Mitchell reported that he noticed a number (144-HD) on the helicopter. Clarence Inoka, who was gathering aquatic life from the stream for his family, reported that he also saw the same helicopter Mitchell had reported.
EnviroWatch, Inc. discovered that the helicopter belonged to Windward Aviation Helicopter and that their Receptionist, Amy, reported on 5-11-99, that Mat Wong, USGS contracted the helicopter. EnviroWatch, inc. contacted Windward Aviation and Ms. Beverly Shearer stated that "Wes Wong is a long time friend of the family and the service provided to him and his son Matthew on May 7, 1999 to Moloka'i was a gift or favor to them, no one paid for the service." This contradicts the statement made by Amy, Windward Aviation Receptionist.
EnviroWatch, Inc. was able to discuss the alledged incident with Mr. Don Shearer, Owner/Pilot of Windward Aviation, on two seperate occasions. On the first ocassion, Mr. Shearer said that he took Wes and Mat Wong to Wailau Valley and dropped them off on his way to Oahu to do some work for VoiceStream. He said Wes and Mat only had two backpacks with them, nothing more. He said he picked them up in the afternoon and returned to Maui. On the second ocassion that EnviroWatch, Inc. spoke with Mr. Shearer, he stated that Wes and Mat Wong also had a two feet long black plastic tube with them.
EnviroWatch, Inc. contacted the office of Mr. Michael Buck, DOFAW Administrator, regarding the alleged shocking incident. Mr. Buck was not available, so EnviroWatch, inc. left a message with Mr. Buckıs Secretary, that we would like to interview him regarding the allegations against DOFAW, Maui Branch Chief, Wesley Wong Mr. Buck returned our call and left a recorded message: "....electric shocking stuff on Maui. I have no idea what you are talking about, not to my knowledge. You want to give me a call and tell me a little bit more? I donıt know any reason we would be involved in that kind of stuff."
EnviroWatch, Inc. later spoke with Mr. Buck in person, he said that he spoke to Wes Wong and Wes told him that the allegations against him were not true. Mr. Buck said he believed Wes because Wes is an honest man. He said that the allegations against Wes were generated by pakalolo (Marijuana) growers to keep people from discovering their pakalolo fields.
Note: These allegations would draw the authorities attention toward this area, not away from pakalolo fields as Mr. Buck had stated. As the Administrator of DOFAW, Mr. Michael Buck is the Direct Supervisor of Wesley Wong and it comes as a surprise that Mr. Buck did not have any knowledge of these very serious allegations against Mr. Wong at this point, nearly two weeks after the accusations were known.
EnviroWatch, Inc. was able to contact and speak with Matthew Wong (son of Wesley Wong) on 5-27-99. Matthew said he and his Dad had two backpacks and a three foot long gray tube that he carries his spear in. Matthew said he used the spear to catch prawns in the stream. Matthew said he had not yet been contacted by anyone regarding an investigation into the alleged shocking incident. This was nearly three weeks after the investigation began.
EnviroWatch, Inc. sent a request for information to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), employer of Matthew Wong. A reply was received on May 23, from Mr. William Meyer, USGS District Chief, who states in his letter: "Mr. Wong is a hydrologic technician, USGS, Duty Station, Kahului, Maui. The USGS also conducts studies on the distribution and ecology of native and introduced organisms in the streams of Hawaii and selected individuals within the agency have state permits to utilize electroshocking to assist these studies. This latter activity is not a normal part of Mr. Wong's duties, however, and the USGS is not currently conducting such activities on Moloka'i."
Mr. Meyer goes on to state: "The USGS also contracts services from Windward Aviation, Maui, at selected times, but Windward Aviation was not being utilized by this office on May 7, 1999. Mr. Matthew Wong was on annual leave on that day, and if any connection between Mr. Wong and Windward Aviation existed on the date of May 7, 1999, it was unofficial."
EnviroWatch, Inc. has provided all of the information we have, to DLNR, Chairman, Mr. Timothy Johns, and to the Attorney General's Special Investigator, Mr Lloyd Shimabuku. The Attorney General's Special Investigator conducted interviews with the Moloka'i witnesses on May 26, and 27, 1999 and he attended a special meeting held on May 27, 1999. EnviroWatch, Inc. requested DLNR, Chairman, Mr. Timothy Johns, to meet with the Moloka'i community, to address their concerns and assure them that DOCARE has in fact been removed from the investigation.
Mr. Bill Puleloa, Aquatic Biologist stationed on Moloka'i, was kind enough to assist with arrangements to reserve the Mitchell Pauole Center as the meeting location. He also assisted with notifying the community that the DLNR Chairman would be coming to Moloka'i to hear their concerns. Mr. Puleloa acted as facilitator of the meeting and he set the tone for a cool headed discussion on this very flammable issue.
The DLNR Chairman placed a high priority on the May 27,1999 meeting on Moloka'i, canceling his appearance at an emergency cabinet meeting with Governor Cayetano to be there. During the meeting, members of the community expressed serious concerns that the DLNR might retailate against their family members working within the department. Mr. Johns assured them that he would not tolerate any form of retaliation from any member within his department. He said he would take swift action against any person in his department who attempted to retaliate against any witnesses or their family members and told the meeting participants that if any such action occurs, to call him directly.
Mr. Johns assured everyone that DLNR regards the allegations most seriously and will do whatever necessary to resolve this most grave matter. The Chairman did a terriffic job of maintaining the delicate balance between addressing the communities concerns, while protecting the rights of the suspects. As the old saying goes: "Innocent Until Proven Guilty"; this is a right we all have!
At the conclusion of the meeting, it was apparent that the Chairman's willingness to meet with the community, hear their concerns and provide what answers he could, made a major difference in the communityıs attitude towards the DLNR. We can see by Mr, Johns actions, that he is sending a strong message to his agency, that he will not tolerate corruption under his leadership.
Finally, we can see that he will not be conducting "Business as Usual" and that Hawaii's citizens will benefit from his handling of this matter. The Attorney General is investigating the alleged shocking incident and EnviroWatch, Inc. will provide updates on the allegations as they unfold.