Haleiwa businesses rally around shark tour owner

Gene Ward
Gene Ward
Bill Martin
Bill Martin

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HALEIWA (HawaiiNewsNow) - A series of boat fires at Haleiwa Boat Harbor has prompted area residents and businesses to call for people to come forward with information to help solve the crimes.

Since January, there have been three fires that targeted boats belonging to North Shore Shark Adventures. The latest blaze happened late Thursday night.

"Someone's taking the law into their own hands," said state Rep. Gil Riviere (R-North Shore/Haleiwa/Waialua/Kahuku/Laie). "They have a beef with a certain business, and they're burning boats down. And that's clearly crossing the line of a civil society.

Rep. Riviere was joined by businesses, the North Shore Chamber of Commerce, Honolulu Police, members of the Haleiwa station of the Honolulu Fire Department, and others with the same concern.

"We really are concerned because this is not a good thing that's happening in the community," said the chamber's Susan Matsushima. "It is something that is actually lawlessness, and if we don't get a handle on this, I think we are all going to lose."

North Shore Shark Adventures has stirred controversy. Critics contend that the shark tours bring the predators closer to shore, and treat sharks in a way inconsistent with Hawaiian culture. Even so, the company's owner said there haven't been any problems until the fires began.

"I've never been threatened here once," said Joe Pavsek. "The worst I ever get is from people like (state Rep.) Gene Ward saying things that's not true, you know?"

But even Ward, who opposes shark tours, came from east Honolulu to the press conference at the boat harbor to show his support.

"We've had some concern in Hawaii Kai about shark tours, but this is not the way to resolve the situation," he said.

The company is offering a reward for information that leads to an arrest in the fires, which investigators have said were arson. The reward fund is now at $20,000, with businesses raising even more. They hope the money will bring in some information.

"Somebody knows something," said Bill Martin, who owns in business in the Waialua Sugar Mill. "It wasn't at four o'clock in the morning, it was 11:30, 12:30 at night. There's people around here."

Related story/video: Arson burns 3rd shark tour boat

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