Monday, January 15, 2001
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Posted on: Monday, January 15, 2001

Scuba rules ordered for Pupukea

By Tino Ramirez
Advertiser North Shore Bureau

PUPUKEA — After watching how scuba companies self-regulated their operations at Sharks Cove in Pupukea, the state Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation has decided to write rules governing commercial activities in the area.

The dive operators developed and implemented guidelines — such as how many divers should be in the water — after North Shore residents complained that they monopolized grounds and facilities at Pupukea Beach Park, which fronts Sharks Cove.

The six-month self-regulation effort was "valiant" but did not work, said acting division administrator Howard Gehring last week. The division, part of the

Department of Land and Natural Resources, will now meet with businesses to develop rules balancing protection of the natural resource, public access and commercial activity.

While the Hawaiian Islands Recreational Scuba Association is pleased to work with the state on rules, it is not "necessarily in favor of any regulations," said Jim Byrem, president of the association’s board of directors.

"We’re all users of the resource and should be respectful of each other," said Byrem, a partner in Ocean Concepts, one of 43 companies represented by HIRSA. "Our position has always been that all users should be able to responsibly use the resource, and we’re not damaging or destroying it."

Byrem said he believes self-regulation should be allowed for at least a year, and noted that it is impossible to distinguish recreational divers from those who pay to be brought to Sharks Cove.

He said the decision to create regulations was based on intuition, not "analysis and empirical evidence."

But state boating regulation planner Caro She said dates, times and operators were recorded during their observations. "There was a formidable attempt to self-regulate. The issue was there were operators who chose not to abide by these rules," said She.

The voluntary guidelines developed by HIRSA included having five operators use the area at a time, limiting each to 10 customers in the water, and staging dives at the north end of Pupukea Beach Park rather than in a heavily used area in front.

The state’s decision to write rules for commercial operators is the latest development in its effort to regulate activities in Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District, an area that includes Sharks Cove and Three Tables and is popular with recreational fishermen and divers, commercial dive operators and residents.

A community task force convened in August 1999 to propose new rules for the district included in its recommendations passed last May that commercial dive operators be allowed to self-regulate for six months.

She said DLNR’s enforcement officers are willing to police Sharks Cove.

"If we have a large fine, I think that would go a long way toward curtailing any kind of illegal activity."

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