DLNR says it will hold the owner responsible for the costs of the environmental toll.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources’ initial investigation has found that the luxury yacht that ran aground in Honolua Bay late last month caused “significant damage” to the marine habitat.  

Maui County locator map

Divers within the Division of Aquatic Resources documented that the 94-foot, 120-ton yacht that wrecked on Feb. 20 wreaked havoc on the corals and live rock covering at least 19,434 square feet, according to a DLNR news release Thursday.  

“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,” Russell Sparks, the aquatic biologist leading the assessment team, said in the release.

A luxury yacht ran aground on Maui on Feb. 20. (Courtesy: DLNR/2023)
A luxury yacht ran aground on Maui on Feb. 20. It was removed earlier this week. (Courtesy: DLNR/2023)

At least 19 coral colonies were damaged or destroyed when the vessel operated by Noelani Yacht Charters first ran aground, the preliminary assessment found. The vessel remained stuck on the rocky coastline in extremely shallow water for almost two weeks, until it was hauled away and sank on its way to Oahu on Sunday

Divers found that scars from the vessel stretched almost 250 feet into the deeper water. In that area, more than 100 coral colonies were affected, and damage to live rock covered nearly 2,099 square feet, according to the news release. 

DLNR is seeking to hold the yacht’s owner, Jim Jones, responsible for the costs to haul away the yacht and the environmental damage. In the release, the agency said it won’t hold the salvage company or tug company that pulled the boat off the reef responsible for any damage. 

The agency initially estimated that it would cost nearly $500,000 for the salvage costs alone. It plans to present a final report on the extent of the damage to the Board of Land and Natural Resources, along with recommended fines and penalties.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation and the Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation.

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