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2 Big Isle men charged for illegally renting kayaks

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 8:19 a.m. HST, Jan 13, 2014

Two Big Island men have been charged with running an illegal kayak rental business in Kealakekua Bay.

So far only Alexander Aquino has been fined $3,253 by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources for violating the law that prohibits commercial activities in state parks without a written permit from the department's Division of State Parks. 

Aquino was arrested on Nov. 21 within Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park during an undercover operation conducted by officers of the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, and charged with soliciting for patrons to rent kayaks for use in Kealakekua Bay. Also arrested and charged for the same violation was Nathan Kolii, also of Captain Cook. 

On Friday, the land board authorized a civil penalty fine of $2,500 and associated administrative costs of $753 to be assessed against Aquino.

Criminal cases against both men are still pending. 

The Division of State Parks last year implemented a moratorium on the use of all vessels within Kealakekua Bay and all landings at Kaawaloa Flat. Vehicle parking and launching of kayaks at the historic Napoopoo wharf were no longer allowed without a permit. Only the three previously board-authorized commercial companies holding state parks revocable permits were allowed to continue offering guided kayak tours to Kaawaloa Flat and to launch from Napoopoo. State Park's objective was to stop the illegal vending and renting of equipment at Napoopoo, and stop the proliferation of kayak client landings at Kaawaloa, with the accompanying environmental damage to nearshore corals and from human waste upon archaeological sites. 

The state then began to issue special use permits for vessels such as stand-up paddleboards, sailboats, kayaks, etc. to transit the water of the bay only, but not to launch from Napoopoo or land at Kaawaloa. No one is allowed to land a vessel, or to swim from a vessel and land at Kaawaloa. Permits are free and contain a set of conditions to protect the natural resources of the park. During 2013, a total of 447 special use permits were issued, 93 authorized vessel permits, and 354 for non-commercial users. 

Although Aquino held a special use permit, it is not a commercial permit allowing for solicitation of patrons within the park, which constitutes a violation of park rules and is grounds for revocation of the permit.

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