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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Taking a crab out of the waters around Okinawa could cost you a whopping $34,000 if you get caught by local officials.

The penalties were mentioned recently in a dive report compiled by a local diver and issued weekly in an e-mail newsletter distributed by the base.

According to local police and fisheries officials, using scuba gear to collect any marine life is strictly prohibited.

The penalties are stiff. Violators face a maximum of three years in prison or fines up to $34,700. Punishment is stricter on non-Japanese violators, because they also are subject to the Foreign National Fisheries Control Act Law.

However, fishing while free diving from the shore or on a boat is allowed, as is catching fish or sea shells by casting a net from the shore, officials said.

Prohibited under any circumstances are the use of spear guns, crab traps or gill nets. Game fishing using crossbows, which is becoming popular in other countries, is prohibited in Japan.

Also forbidden is harvesting coral, sea turtles and their eggs, giant clams, spiny lobsters, green turban and silver-mouth turban shells, trochus snails, collector urchins, and hizikia, sea lettuce and other edible sea weeds.

Officials say they patrol the waters and shorelines of the island regularly, looking for offenders. Also, fishermen routinely report poachers.

Japanese officials also are on the lookout for drunken boaters. Just as getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated is illegal, so is operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol.

In areas where sea traffic is heavy or where swimmers are nearby, the legal limit is 0.15 milligrams of alcohol per liter of breath, said Masahiko Koja, a spokesman for the Marine Section of the Okinawa General Bureau, a Tokyo government agency that issues licenses to boat operators.

In the open sea, the limits are lowered to 0.5 milligrams per liter, he said.

Stars and Stripes reporter Will Morris contributed to this report.

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