By ERIN MILLER
The Department of Land and Natural Resources hasn’t caught anyone on a kayak trying to enter Kealakekua Bay since officials closed the bay last week.
“Things are going very well in Kealakekua Bay,” DLNR Chairman William Aila said earlier this week, saying the department has increased enforcement.
A Stephens Media reporter stopped by the bay on Tuesday and saw no enforcement officers.
“Just because they didn’t see them doesn’t mean they weren’t there,” Aila said. He said he will continue stationing officers there “every day until I feel comfortable” the rules are being followed.
Aila has consistently declined to describe the exact enforcement plan during the temporary closure, which took effect Jan. 2 and prohibits kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and any drift-in boat without a permit. One visitor complained to Stephens Media this week about how Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement officers responded to his questions about the permits. Aila said the officers should have explained the department isn’t issuing new permits right now.
He’s able to fund the extra enforcement, after years of citing lack of money to do so, because of money left from other, unfunded vacancies, Aila said. He declined to say how long that funding would last, because doing so would give away information about how long the extra enforcement is fiscally possible.
The indefinite closure came after more than a decade of conflicting uses and illegal kayak vendors hanging out at the bay, renting kayaks to tourists but not reporting their earnings. There had been little or no enforcement by the state.
Aila said drug activity at the bay, people disrespecting the sacred sites at Kaawaloa — across the bay from Napoopoo — and people swimming with dolphins were also concerns the department considered before announcing the closure. The decision was not based, at all, Aila said, on the death of an out-of-state teenager on a kayaking and camping tour at the bay in 2012.
Tyler Madoff’s parents in August filed suit against the tour company with which Madoff was traveling.
Email Erin Miller at email@example.com.