Yacht Nakoa caused widespread undersea environmental damage

A damage assessment of where yacht Nakoa went aground in Hawaii has revealed that the yacht caused damage to corals and reef live rock covering at least 19,434 ft/sq.

Fter two weeks the Nakoa was eventually pulled out by tug Mary Catherine (IMO 7209435). Both before the vessel was dragged off and subsequently, divers from the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR) conducted a damage investigation the day.

A preliminary investigation took place the day after the grounding, just outside the Honolua-Mokulē’ia Bay Marine Life Conservation District on Maui’s northwestern coast.

The assessment team was looking for two things: the initial impact when the vessel grounded; and then the scars that occurred as the yacht was dragged back off the flat reef surface into deeper water by the Mary Catherine.

The preliminary assessment indicated that 19 coral colonies were damaged or destroyed during the initial grounding. The Nakoa was grounded in extremely shallow water along the basalt boulder shoreline, with high waves making a recovery difficult to implement.

Highly visible, parallel scars extended 246 feet into deeper water. The first 49 feet consisted of two deep trench-like scars, about 16 feet apart. It was noted that 101 coral colonies were impacted and that there was damage to live rock covering nearly 2,099 ft/sq. The DLNR said that it was not holding the salvage company or the Mary Catherine responsible for any damage, but it has made clear that the yacht’s owner would be deemed responsible for salvage costs, as well as for damage to live rock and coral.

Following the DAR assessment a team from the Maui Ocean Centre Marine Institute collected more than 100 fragments of damaged coral. It plans to recover additional fragments soon. The Institute agreed to collaborate to repair and restore the damage at the site as quickly as possible. It is operating under a DLNR-issued Special Activity Permit, which allows it to respond rapidly in collaboration with DAR staff on coral damage incidents such as this grounding. A few colonies of dislodged coral will be re-attached as soon as ocean conditions have improved. Coral fragments collected this week will be grown out at the marine institute lab for future coral restoration projects, as appropriate. A final report on live rock/coral damage will be presented to the Board of Land and Natural Resources, along with DAR’s recommended fines and penalties for the damage.