A state judge denied a request to dismiss charges of illegal shark-feeding against a North Shore ocean excursion employee yesterday as protesters rallied at the courthouse.
Pier Diem District Judge Christopher McKenzie set a Dec. 2 hearing at Wahiawa District Court for the five shark-tour employees. A trial is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 20.
Maurice Lee Chalker Jr., Richard Bock Whyte, Nickolas Gargaro and Eric Christopher Nourrie each have been charged with one count of shark feeding. Kohl William Ragragola was charged with two counts.
Each faces a $100 minimum fine, a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to 30 days in jail if convicted.
Attorney Tom Bush, who represents Nourrie, moved to dismiss the charge, but McKenzie denied the request. Nourrie, who was not present, was a deckhand for North Shore Shark Adventures. Bush said Nourrie no longer works for the company.
Allegations of shark feeding involving employees of North Shore Shark Adventures and Hawaii Shark Encounters prompted an investigation by state conservation officers.
"There is absolutely not one shred of any evidence to show that these shark tours are in any way, shape or form a danger to anyone," Bush said after the hearing.
About 10 anti-chumming protesters from various organizations stood outside Wahiawa District Court before going inside to watch the hearing.
"We’re not anti-business," said Mahina Chillingworth of Hui O Hee Nalu. "It’s more of a public safety issue."