Residents confront shark tour operator


POSTED: Friday, April 17, 2009

Hundreds overflowed the Kamiloiki Elementary School cafeteria last night in a show of opposition to a now-aborted shark tour operation based out of Koko Marina.

“;We don't want Jaws around here,”; someone in the crowd hollered.

Iolani Lewis of Hawaii Kai told the East Honolulu residents he would not be pursuing his venture off Maunalua Bay.

Some in the crowd accused Lewis of chumming the waters, and anchoring his boat to a buoy tethered to a pinnacle on the reef, in order to condition the sharks to the food and the presence of people.

Lewis denied the accusation and fielded angry questions from the audience.

With a leased boat, Lewis had planned to launch a shark tour operation, Shark Discovery Hawaii, in which customers would pay to be inside a cage placed in the water to observe sharks, similar to two operations on the North Shore.

He planned to operate beyond the three-mile mark, which delineates state waters from federal jurisdiction.

However, an official with the National Marine Fisheries Service said it is unlawful under federal and state laws to introduce food or any other substance to attract sharks for any other purpose than to kill the sharks for food.

A state Boating and Recreation Division official told the crowd that neither having a shark cage nor putting it in the water is illegal.

But the state is planning to propose legislation to regulate any commercial activity in state waters, requiring a commercial use permit issued by the division. He said the proposal stems from the gamut of new commercial activities ranging from kite-surfing to paddleboarding.