KAILUA-KONA — Being anchored in coral, in too shallow water and too close to the Kailua Pier navigation channel may land the owner of a 196-foot yacht in Kailua Bay a misdemeanor offense and a fine.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources conducted Wednesday morning three dives on the two anchorage spots used by the Formosa while in Kailua Bay after receiving a tip about potential coral damage about 2 p.m. Tuesday.
“They are working on a coral damage assessment that they hope to have finalized to give to DOCARE tomorrow,” the department said in a Wednesday afternoon email to West Hawaii Today.
Brooke Landt, a captain with Big Island Watersports, was the one who reported what she saw as potential damage to the reef. On Tuesday, she said she noticed the boat in the bay and that it later had moved closer to shore, “nearly right off the pier.”
With her knowledge of the bay, Landt said she and others “hopped in the water to document what was happening.”
“The whole boat was shifting back and forth dragging the chain across the coral,” she said, noting that it was also windy at the time. She added, “the anchor was resting on coral. It hit nothing but coral.”
She snapped photos and reported her findings using the DLNRTip app, which was unveiled last summer to help people connect directly with conservation officers, view alerts, and submit anonymous tips from smartphones.
“I was shocked. I thought I would be sending it into the ether, but it was wonderful,” she said. “Not only did they respond, but there’s actually somebody out there this morning, which is even more pleasant.”
After the department received Landt’s report, a Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation manager immediately contacted the ship’s agent, the department said Wednesday. The manager informed the agent, identified by DLNR only as “Captain Nicholas,” that he was anchored in coral, in too shallow water and too close to the Kailua Pier navigation channel.
“This ship had stopped for a one day visit about a week ago and anchored in deeper water with a sandy bottom. Unfortunately, there was a change of crew and a new captain. He was not informed of a proper location to drop anchor,” the department’s communications office told West Hawaii Today. “The DOBOR manager advised the captain it was his responsibility to not damage the environment when dropping anchor.”
The captain subsequently moved the yacht, and is now anchored in 100 feet of water and in sand, the department said. A mooring permit was not required as the vessel’s stay was less than 72 hours.
The Formosa is listed on Fraser Yachts list of inventory available for charter. Built in 2015, the vessel can accommodate 12 guests and 15 crew. It costs approximately $459,000 per week to rent.
No one has been cited in connection with the incident and the investigation by Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers in West Hawaii is ongoing.
“The penalty is a misdemeanor, but there is the potential for a very large fine for damage to the coral,” the department said.
Under Hawaii Administrative Rules Section 13-95-70, it is unlawful for any person to take, break, or damage any stony coral. The violation is a petty misdemeanor offense, subject to a criminal fine of a minimum $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense, and $1,000 for a third or subsequent offense. In addition, administrative fines of up to $1,000 per specimen may apply.