A West Hawaii fish collector has been charged with terroristic threatening, according to online court records.
The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed the second-degree charge, which is a misdemeanor, against Jay Lovell on Monday.
Lovell is accused of approaching Rene Umberger in waters off the Kona Coast in May “with the intent to terrorize, or in reckless disregard of the risk of terrorizing another person … did threaten by word or conduct to cause bodily injury,” according to the complaint.
An arraignment hearing is scheduled for next month in the Kona District Court.
Umberger and another diver filmed the incident, which took place while she and a group of divers were approaching Lovell as he collected fish to sell for aquariums. Umberger is a known opponent of aquarium fish collecting and spearheaded efforts to ban the practice on Maui, where she lives.
“It’s an appropriate charge,” Umberger said Wednesday, after learning the complaint had been filed.
She said people have approached her since the incident to talk about their concerns about the fish collecting practice.
“People have expressed gratitude for documenting this,” Umberger said.
Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth did not respond to a message left Wednesday morning. In May, he told West Hawaii Today an assault charge would be unlikely, because Umberger was not injured in the incident. Umberger told Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement officers that Lovell pulled her scuba regulator out of her mouth while she was 50 feet below the surface.
Lovell’s brother, Jim Lovell, who also collects reef fish in West Hawaii, said he was surprised Umberger hadn’t been charged as well. He said Umberger made statements last year at a meeting in Kona that she was planning to “sic” Sea Shepherd on tropical fish collectors here. After those comments, Jim Lovell said he approached DLNR and the governor’s office to report them.
Umberger was on a Sea Shepherd boat when the incident happened.
“The Sea Shepard boat diverted their course and and came within 100 feet of the fishermen in order to establish their identity,” Jim Lovell said in an email. “Once the fishermen were identified, Sea Shepherd waited for the fishermen to go down on their next dive and then sent several people in the water and approached the fishermen close enough to disrupt their work. The fishermen did not go looking for the Sea Shepard boat, they were just doing their job. It is very clear that Rene Umberger and her associates were responsible for this incident. Simply put, If they had stayed home and left the fishermen alone, nothing would of happened.”