28m Sunseeker Nakoa runs aground in Hawaii

3 images

Credit: DLNR

Owners contest $1.8M fine after grounded yacht causes damage to Hawaiian coral reef

21 May 2024 • Written by Dea Jusufi

The owners of the 28.1-metre Nakoa have requested a formal case hearing to contest a $1,818,851.97 fine given by the Board of Land and Natural Resources. 

This follows an incident that saw the Sunseeker yacht break free of her mooring in the protected Honolua-Mokulēʻia Bay Marine Life Conservation District and cause damage to over 100 coral colonies and over 1,500 square metres of live rock on Maui’s west coast (20 February 2023).

Inclement weather resulted in Nakoa being stranded for two weeks and across three separate rescue attempts.

On 26 April 2024, the Board increased the fine from $117,000 to account for biological and cultural damages, as well as "emotional distress to the community".

"A slap on the wrist in this situation, would be a slap in the face of this community," said John Carty of the Save Honolua Coalition.

The owners' legal representative argued that there is no basis to impose liability as the grounding took place following the theft of the vessel. They also noted that damage from the initial grounding must be separated from the damage related to salvage.

Credit: DLNR
Credit: DLNR

Prior to the salvage, the DNLR confirmed that fuel, batteries and other pollutants were safely removed from the vessel. Around 470 gallons (1,779 litres) of petroleum products and 14 marine batteries were recovered from the yacht, with helicopters transporting 55-gallon (208 litres) drums of fuel from the boat to a staging area where it could be disposed of.

Before the defuelling began, eyewitness accounts reported considerable fuel leakage surrounding Nakoa.

At the time, DLNR first deputy Laura Kaakua said: "We understand everyone’s frustration with the grounding and harm to the reef at Honolua, a bay with abundant marine life that’s loved by many residents of Maui and visitors alike."

The initial fine was recommended by the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources and included $26,700 for damaging stony coral, $33,520 for damaging live rock, $56,851 for the cost of the investigation, and $400 for violations.

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More about this yacht

Sunseeker   28.13 m •  2004

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