The state will fine the operators of illegal lava boat tours on Hawaii island $48,500 after approval by the Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday.
The fine will be issued to Henry K. Pomroy, Bill A. Fujimoto and Ho‘okupu Fish Company LLC for operating commercial lava boat tours on Hawaii island without a commercial use permit following the outcome of a contested case hearing.
DLNR’s Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation first issued Pomroy a criminal citation for violating state laws, but the Hawaii County prosecuting attorney’s office dismissed it, leading to a contested case hearing in April. DOBOR originally sought $140,000 in civil penalties.
According to DOBOR, Pomroy was warned that he was operating illegal lava boat tours because he did not hold a commercial use permit authorizing the activity. But Pomroy continued to conduct the tours from the Pohoiki Boat launching ramp, DOBOR alleged, and instituted a system where customers would pay for a membership interest in the Ho‘okupu Fish Company. Pomroy said they were taking boat rides as company members, and therefore, not paying customers.
The hearing officer ruled that there was still commercial activity taking place and that the membership interest in Ho‘okupu Fish Company did not remove the requirement for a commercial use permit. BLNR adopted the officer’s decision without change, which amended fines, attorney’s fees and administrative costs to $48,500.