A luxury yacht that ran aground off the coast of Maui, Hawaii damaged thousands of square feet of surrounding coral reefs.
The 94 foot long boat, called Nakoa, was pulled free on March 5 after running aground just outside the Honolua-Mokulē’ia Bay Marine Life Conservation District on Maui’s northwest coast two weeks earlier. Biologists have now completed assessing the damage the giant ship has inflicted on local wildlife, and the outcome doesn’t look good.
“We’re looking for two things: the initial impact when the ship ran aground, and then the scars from being pulled from the shallow reef surface into deeper water,” said Russel Sparks, an aquatic biologist with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Aquatic Resources Division, which led the assessment, said in a statement.
Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse habitats on earth. They are home to a quarter of all fish species on this planet and protect shores from storms and erosion. Hawaii’s eight main islands are home to more than 410,000 acres of living reef that is home to more than 7,000 known species of marine plants and animals, according to the University of Hawaii. 1,250 of these species are found only on Hawaii’s reefs.
Overall, the investigation found the yacht had damaged coral and living rock over an area of over 19,434 square feet. The visible damage extended from the landing point about 246 feet into the ocean, and the first 49 feet consisted of two deep “trench-like” scars. in this area alone.
Unfortunately, these important ecosystems are vulnerable to a variety of threats, including overfishing, disease and rising ocean temperatures. Direct physical damage like this puts additional stress on these vulnerable habitats.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources, along with the Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute, is working hard to repair and restore the damage “as quickly as possible.”
“[The Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute] have identified some colonies of displaced corals that will be reattached once sea conditions improve,” Sparks said in the statement.
The Ministry of Land and Natural Resources has stated that the yacht owner is responsible for the cost of towing and the resulting environmental damage.