New state rule affects all ocean commercial businesses, DLNR says sorry for confusion

New state rule affects all ocean commercial businesses, DLNR says sorry for confusion
Published: Jan. 5, 2015 at 3:29 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 6, 2015 at 5:04 AM HST
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A new state rule is causing confusion.

Commercial businesses operating in the ocean are now required to have a permit. But some Kauai companies lost money when they were forced to close unnecessarily during the holidays.

Governor at the time, Neil Abercrombie, signed the new rule back in September. But company owners say they were never told when it would be implemented. And one company found out the hard way.

Aloha Kauai Tours has been around since 1990. On Christmas Eve, in the middle of a snorkeling tour, Department of Land and Natural Resources enforcement officers paid them a visit.

"They basically came down to the dive site and told us to get out of the water," said president of the company Mike Hopkins.

Hopkins said he had to give his customers back their money and stop operations during one of the busiest times of the year.

"So we were shut down all over the Christmas weekend. We turned away $10,000 worth of business," Hopkins said.

Aloha Kauai Tours has since got its permit. But owner of SNUBA Tours of Kauai, Kevin Cram, says his luck hasn't been as successful.

"Frustration level was a little high…we were trying to get all the requirements to do so, and unfortunately as we met with some of the county and state people to try to obtain the permits, they knew nothing of it and they weren't even sure who to direct us to," said Cram.

Cram said he's been turning people away since the middle of October while trying to figure it out. And just this past week, he got an email from the department's Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation Kauai District Manager saying he would be allowed to operate without a permit until March 1st after all.

Chairman for the department at the time, William Aila says they are sorry for the confusion.

"Some complaints from some Kauai operators, and we do apologize that we sort of got ahead of ourselves," said Aila.

Aila says although it is now the new rule, they are not quite ready to implement the permitting process just yet. And as far as the Christmas Eve visit goes, Aila says his enforcement officers may have been a little overzealous.

"They were doing what they thought was their job. We needed to communicate with them that that wasn't the appropriate time," Aila said.

In the meantime, everyone affected by this should contact the small boat harbor nearest to the place they operate from and ask for the "commercial use permit" to see what requirements they need to get a permit.

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