State seeks $10K fine against alleged illegal lava tour operator

State seeks $10K fine against alleged illegal lava tour operator

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state is proposing a $10,000 fine against a Big Island boat owner, saying he conducted illegal lava tours.

Official said Henry Pomroy doesn't have a license from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources or the U.S. Coast Guard to operate the tours.

The state said only four companies are authorized to do commercial tours from the the Pohoiki Boat Launching Ramp.

"Those are definitely meant to send a message," said Ed Underwood, administrator of the DNLR's Boating and Ocean Recreation Division.

The fine comes amid a crackdown on illegal lava tours on Hawaii Island, and as thousands flock to the Big Island to see the spectacular lava show.

But Pomroy's attorney said the boat is used for recreational purposes and that his client doesn't get paid to take people aboard.

"He's not engaged in commercial activity," said Steven Strauss.

It's "for fishing, for touring but not for paying any funds based on the commercial activity," he said.

State investigators, though, said they documented at least five instances in the past six months where Pomroy provided lava tours. They also interviewed his customers.

"Two passengers admitted to paying $150 each to view the lava flow," the DLNR said, in its complaint.

Underwood added that Pomroy was cited by the Coast Guard earlier this month.

"On Feb. 5, the United States Coast Guard did an undercover investigation and found the same thing to be going on," said Underwood.

Pomroy's attorney is now contesting the case before the Land Board, which could take several months to resolve.

Copyright 2017 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.