Lawmakers urge AG to investigate yacht’s grounding in West Maui marine sanctuary

Five weeks after a luxury yacht crashed on a West Maui shoreline, lawmakers are pressing for more answers on what went wrong.
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 6:29 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 28, 2023 at 9:54 PM HST
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HONOLUA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Five weeks after a luxury yacht grounded onto a pristine West Maui shoreline, lawmakers are pressing for more answers on what went wrong.

After a series of mistakes and mishaps, the 94-foot Nakoa leaked fuel near a marine sanctuary, damaged the coral reef, and then sank while being towed away from Honolua Bay.

The operator of the vessel is being sued by investors who say he should not have taken his family on a pleasure cruise.

State lawmakers have passed a resolution calling on the state attorney general to get involved.

“When rich people break their toys and the environment, we all have to pay. And a lot of us are upset about that,” said Rep. Sonny Ganaden, who sits on the House Committee on Water and Land.

Ganaden says he expects to crack down on licenses in future legislative sessions.

“We can’t be attempting to pass resolutions every time this happens, what we need to do is put appropriate rules in place regarding licensure and insurance,” he said.

The Nakoa is still on the ocean floor somewhere between Molokai and Maui.

Locals say just because it’s not visible from shore anymore, doesn’t mean it should be forgotten.

“The problem is still there,” said West Maui resident Kekai Keahi.

Keahi hopes this incident will shed light on all grounded boats across Maui, specifically on the West Side, where boats are still grounded at Lahaina Harbor and Mala.

“Mala, we see two, three boats come on shore a year. One year, we had almost 10 boats on shore,” Keahi said. “We’ve been trying to ask the state for many years that we would like to see Mala maybe not be a mooring area.”

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is conducting its own investigation into what happened with the Nakoa.

The Attorney General’s Office said it won’t comment on the existence of any investigation.

“We hear and understand the grave concerns being raised in the Legislature about the grounding of the Nakoa in Honolua Bay and the damage caused to the environment, including to corals and live rock,” said Supervising Deputy Attorney General Julie China, in a statement.

“The Department continues to work with our partners at other state agencies on the environmental response and fact gathering,”

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