Cruising to compromise on Molokai - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Cruising to compromise on Molokai

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KAUNAKAKAI, MOLOKAI (HawaiiNewsNow) -

On Molokai - a showdown over cruises ships in Kaunakakai - seems to have ended. About a year ago, some local activists protested the arrival of a small cruise ship to their harbor.

Island residents became divided over the need for tourism dollars versus concerns over the environment and cultural integrity. But on Wednesday, the protestors and the cruise company inked a compromise. 14 months ago, not many would have guessed the parties would be signing on the dotted line

"It's kind of the, what we hope, is a building block to best management practices for tourism on Molokai," explains Dan Blanchard, owner of American Safari Cruises.

Local activists and the owner of the Seattle-based ASC hammered out the deal to bring a 36 passenger cruise ship to the island.

"We're hoping that Molokai uses this, we put this into our community plan, so that anyone else coming - as tourists to this island or tourist industry to this island - knows that there are steps that they need to take," says longtime community leader, Walter Ritte. "They don't just come here and do whatever they want."

Among other things, the agreement puts environmental restrictions on touring certain parts of the island. It limits the size of a ship to 36 passengers and restricts the number of times ASC can visit to 52 trips a year. The cruise company also agreed it would use tour businesses owned by Molokai residents.

"We've had a really good agreement, and also, probably the biggest thing for us and for Molokai is that, in 2013, late this year, we're planning on actually basing the boat out of Molokai which will bring more revenue to the community and hotels," says Blanchard.

Controversy erupted in the fall of 2011 - when protestors twice blocked the ASC's "Safari Explorer" from coming into Kaunakakai harbor. The ship encountered protestors in the water and on shore. The activists were angry ASC didn't consult residents before coming - raising concerns about the ship's environmental and cultural impact.

In the end, both sides say they're pleased they reached a deal. It's still unclear how this could impact other cruise companies interested in docking on the island.

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