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Lava boat tour operators facing fines

Updated: 
April 21, 2017 - 8:15am

HILO — Two men could face substantial fines for allegedly operating illegal lava boat tours.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is recommending fines of $60,000 against Henry Pomroy, $20,000 against William Fujimoto, and $60,000 against Hookupu Fish Company, LLC, which they co-own.

Both requested a contested case hearing, which the Land Board will consider April 28.

DLNR alleges they sold tours to the lava ocean entry at Kamokuna without a commercial permit. The company was observed providing tours six times since August, according to the department.

The men told enforcement officers the money they collected was for memberships in Hookupu LLC, according to DLNR.

Their petition for a contested case hearing argues DLNR is unlawfully restricting commercial permits at Pohoiki to four. They deny conducting unlawful commercial activity.

Pomroy and the company face six counts of engaging in business at a small boat harbor without approval and six counts of illegal commercial operation on state ocean waters. Each count comes with a maximum fine of $5,000.

Fujimoto faces two counts for each violation.

According to DLNR, the company received a cease and desist letter from the department in September and a U.S. Coast Guard order in February, but the tours continued.

The catamaran boat, Ho‘okupu, is registered as a recreational vessel, according to the department.

DLNR identifies Steve Strauss as Hookupu’s attorney and member.

Strauss said he left the company in September but still represents the LLC.

He said Hookupu applied for a commercial permit but was denied.

“The whole permitting scheme is flawed,” Strauss said.

“Commercial permits can only be restricted when there are adverse impact on resources. None are shown in this case.”

Pomroy told officers he takes investors on fishing and sightseeing trips, according to DLNR.

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