Lava tour boat owner fined $15,000

A lava tour operator is being fined $15,000 for launching a vessel without a commercial permit from the Pohoiki boat ramp.

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A lava tour operator is being fined $15,000 for launching a vessel without a commercial permit from the Pohoiki boat ramp.

The state Land Board approved the penalty against Shane Turpin during a meeting Friday in Honolulu. The fine involves three violations.

Turpin operates two vessels — LavaKai II, which doesn’t have a commercial boat ramp permit for Pohoiki, and LavaOne, which does, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

DLNR says Turpin was fined for using LavaKai II under the business name Kohala Tours at the boat ramp between Feb. 3 and 7. LavaOne is used by Turpin’s other company, Lava Ocean Tours.

The tours take customers to the lava ocean entry at Kamokuna.

According to the DLNR, there’s only four available commercial use ramp permits for Pohoiki.

The board declined to issue additional fines ranging from $5,000 to $35,000 against vessel captains Sky Mullins and William Gifford.

The violations didn’t involve LavaOne, which remains in compliance, according to the DLNR. That boat was taking tours on the same dates.

Turpin, who faced fines as high as $40,000, couldn’t be reached for comment by deadline.

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DLNR also proposed fines ranging from $20,000-$60,000 against two men and their company, Ho‘okupu Fish Co. LLC, for providing lava boat tours without a commercial permit for their vessel. They requested a contested case hearing for the fines.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.