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State fines Captain Cook man for illegal kayak vending

January 11, 2014 - 9:23pm

A man soliciting people at Kealakekua Bay to rent kayaks will pay more than $3,000 following an undercover operation conducted by the state.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources authorized Friday a civil penalty fine of $2,500 and associated administrative costs of $750 against Captain Cook resident Alexander Aquino, 39, for violating Hawaii Administrative Rules prohibiting commercial activities without a written permit from the board of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of State Parks, according to a prepared statement from the DLNR. The board met Friday in Honolulu.

Aquino was arrested Nov. 21 at Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park following an undercover operation conducted by DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers and charged with soliciting patrons to rent kayaks for use in the bay. Also arrested and charged for the same violation was 27-year-old Nathan Kolii, also of Captain Cook, according to the DLNR.

The parks division initiated the undercover operation in response to multiple complaints of unpermitted solicitation of commercial activities, according to the request by the state parks to the board to issue the monetary penalties against Aquino.

During the Nov. 21 operation, Kolii initiated a conversation with a plainclothes DOCARE officer about renting a kayak around 9:30 a.m., according to the request. After discussing a potential rental, Kolii provided contact information for a company called Big Island Canoes, which also was printed on a door of a vehicle parked next to Kolii and Aquino.

Aquino then reportedly retrieved a paper from that vehicle that included product pricing and contact information for Big Island Canoes and another company, which Aquino told the undercover officer was his partner’s business. After agreeing to the rental of one three-passenger kayak and two masks and snorkels and the cost, another DOCARE officer arrested Aquino.

Criminal cases against both men are still pending, according to the DLNR.

In January 2013, the Division of State Parks implemented a moratorium on the use of all vessels within Kealakekua Bay and all landings at Kaawaloa Flat because of ongoing illegal kayak vending and concerns about damage to cultural and historical sites at Kaawaloa. Vehicle parking and launching of kayaks at the historic Napoopoo wharf were no longer allowed without a permit, according to the DLNR.

The division hoped the moratorium would put a stop to illegal vending and renting of equipment at Napoopoo and stop kayak landings at Kaawaloa, according to the DLNR. Three Board of Land and Natural Resources-authorized commercial companies holding state parks revocable permits were subsequently allowed to resume guided kayak tours from Napoopoo to Kaawaloa Flat. On May 29, 2013, the department reopened the bay to recreational use of vessels including kayak, standup paddleboard and one-man canoe, after the user secured a free permit and promised not to launch from Napoopoo or land at Kaawaloa.

During the remainder of 2013, 447 special use permits were issued — 93 authorized vessel permits and 354 for noncommercial users — according to the department.

Although Aquino held a special use permit, it was not a commercial permit allowing for solicitation of patrons within the park, according to the department. The commercial solicitation of patrons within the park violates park rules and is grounds for permit revocation.

“This case shows that DLNR is taking enforcement action to curb a prolific business in illicit sales and services that have had detrimental impacts on the community and the park environment,” William J. Aila Jr., DLNR chairperson, said in the prepared statement. “We have provided opportunity for a limited number of responsible commercial vendors to service a manageable number of clients going to Kaawaloa, and share in stewardship responsibility. We have also provided a simple process for ocean recreational users to obtain permits to allow them to enjoy the bay’s waters.”

Hawaii Administrative Rules regarding commercial activities at state parks allows the board to authorize a maximum fine of $2,500 for a first offense, according to the rules. A second violation within five years can net a max fine of $5,000 while a third and any subsequent violations within five years can result in a $10,000 fine. The rules also allow for a $5,000 fine for things such as damage or destruction to archaeological or historical features, geological features, public property, wildlife and habitat.

The board can also assess monetary penalties to cover administrative costs, including attorney’s fees, according to the rules. According to the state parks’ request, the $753 assessed against Aquino was to cover 33 hours of DOCARE officer salary.

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