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DLNR still controls the fate of Kealakekua Bay

There’s nothing top secret about Kealakekua Bay. There’s no threats to national security or illicit love affairs happening at the bottom of Napo’opo’o Road (at least none that we’re aware of). So why all the secrecy surrounding the state’s plans for the bay?

Big Island Weekly covered this story a few weeks ago, and subsequently, questions are still pouring in from locals wanting answers. Answers are difficult to come by, but here is everything we’ve learned so far: The state of Hawaii has pulled the permits of kayaking companies in Kealakekua Bay and is considering shutting down all activities on the bay. According to Brock Stratton of Kona Boys, “As it stands today, the state has denied all kayaking permits in Kealakekua Bay after they expire at the end of December as officials consider ways to better regulate commercial activity in the area.”

The state has refused to answer any questions in regard to the scope of the closures and locals are seeking answers to their concerns. For example, will the state close the bay to any and all activity? Will anyone be able to launch anything from Napo’opo’o pier? Will anyone be able to access Ka’awaloa by kayak, craft, or trail? How will boats like zodiacs and larger crafts be affected by the state’s decision?

In a statement made by William Aila, Chairman of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, he is quoted as saying “[The] plan is not finalized yet. I’m not going to comment on any of that. The attorneys are looking at something right now. At the appropriate time, we’ll make the announcement on the overall plan. We’re working on it.”

Kona residents are concerned, and rightly so. A ban would affect thousands of visitors and locals who kayak and snorkel in Kealakekua Bay. Environmental activists are concerned that if kayaking is no longer regulated in Kealakekua Bay, that both visitors and the ecosystem will face great risks without access to education and safety information that licensed operators currently provide. The damage to the bay’s coral system could be insurmountable and take generations to heal. Tourism at Kealakekua Bay is a primary revenue generator for the state, the county, and the towns involved, so the economic impact on the area could be profound.

The board of Land and Natural Resources is holding a meeting on this issue on November 30 in Honolulu. If you would like to express your thoughts or concerns on the future of Kealakekua Bay, its health, and the economic future of Kona, you can contact Chairman Aila at 808-587-0400 or by e-mail william.j.aila@hawaii.gov.