DLNR News Release-Grounded Yacht Caused Significant Damage to Live Rock Habitat

Posted on Mar 9, 2023 in Latest Department News, Newsroom

(HONOLUA BAY, MAUI) – A post-grounding damage assessment conducted by divers from the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), found that the yacht Nakoa caused damage to corals and reef live rock covering at least 19,434-square-feet.  

The four-person DAR team conducted a preliminary damage investigation the day after the vessel grounded just outside the Honolua-Mokulē’ia Bay Marine Life Conservation District on Maui’s northwestern coast. On Sunday, March 5, the boat was pulled free, but then sank in 800 feet of ocean water while towing it back to Honolulu. 

Russell Sparks, the DAR aquatic biologist leading the assessment team, said, “We are looking for two things. The initial impact when the vessel grounded, and then the scars that occurred as the boat was dragged back off the flat reef surface into deeper water.” 

The preliminary assessment showed nineteen coral colonies were damaged or destroyed during the initial grounding. For nearly two weeks the Nakoa remained grounded in extremely shallow water along the basalt boulder shoreline in a high wave environment. 

Highly visible, parallel scars extend 246 feet into deeper water. The first 49 feet consist of two deep “trench-like” scars, about 16 feet apart. Sparks said, “In this area we found 101 impacted coral colonies, and damage to live rock covering nearly 2,099 square feet. 

The DLNR is not holding the salvage company or tug company that pulled the boat off the reef responsible for any damage but has made it clear that the yacht’s owner will be responsible for salvage costs, as well as for damage to live rock and coral. 

Following the DAR assessment, a team from the Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute collected more than 100 fragments of damaged coral and plans to recover additional fragments soon. 

Sparks added, “The Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute agreed to collaborate with us 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. In this case, they identified a few colonies of dislodged coral that will be re-attached as soon as ocean conditions improve. We appreciate their response and expert coral restoration assistance in stabilizing and restoring this site.” 

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. 

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(All images/video courtesy: DLNR) 

HD video – Honolua Bay grounding damage assessment (March 7, 2023): 


(Shot sheet attached) 


Photographs – Honolua Bay grounding damage assessment (March 7, 2023): 




Media Contact: 

Dan Dennison 

Senior Communications Manager 

(808) 587-0396 

[email protected]