Anger and protests over a small cruise ship have given way to compromise that will allow the people of Molokai to better manage the tourist industry here.
Months of negotiations have concluded with an historic agreement between American Safari Cruises (recently renamed “Un-Cruise Adventures”) and concerned members of the Molokai community that will allow the 36-guest Safari Explorer ship to continue docking at Kaunakakai Harbor.
Dan Blanchard, CEO and President of Un-Cruise Adventures, was at the Kaunakakai Wharf Wednesday morning to sign the agreement. “This agreement comes after many months of negotiations and is a positive step forward in our relationship with the island and its community,” said Blanchard.
A final meeting Nov. 2 at Kulana ‘Oiwi between Aha Kiole O Molokai and the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, along with the Department of Transportation Harbor Division, helped set the terms of this agreement. DLNR Chairman Bill Aila, who took part in Wednesday’s signing event, also attended the Nov. 2 meeting.
“It is an outcome of community sitting down with business talking openly and honestly about each other’s needs,” Aila told KITV.
The cornerstone of this agreement limits small cruise boats to visit Molokai once per week with a maximum of 36 passengers. It also requires Un-Cruise Adventures to use only local vendors and businesses to support its visits.
Because Kaunakakai Harbor is a commercial port, the DLNR and DOT only have limited jurisdiction to regulate such cruises under the small boat harbor rules. Aha Kiole has suggested petitioning the state for new administrative rules that will create greater restrictions. These new proposed rules could limit off-shore anchoring and visits to places like Mo’omomi on the north shore.
Aha Kiole determined that limited cruise vessels would be acceptable to Molokai based on community surveys and moku meetings it conducted on this issue over the past year. By limiting the size and frequency of vessels, it was concluded that visitors would have minimal adverse impact on the ocean and island resources.
“We hope this agreement helps lay groundwork for best management practices for tourism,” said Blanchard.
Long-time Molokai protester and political activist Walter Ritte was also satisfied with the agreement. “Molokai wanted to determine their own tourist future … and we did!” he wrote. “Protesting can help communities!”
A video will be produced and shown to all visitors explaining the concerns Molokai residents have about tourism. It will address environmental and culturally-sensitive issues for visitors, including the fear of outsiders buying and developing Molokai land for future use.
Protestors entered the water and successfully blocked the Safari Explorer from docking at Kaunakakai on Nov. 26, 2011 following several land-based protests. The initial concern was that this new boat had failed to follow Molokai protocol in seeking permission to visit.
In reaction, the U.S. Coast Guard created a security zone around the harbor to allow the lawful docking of the Safari Explorer. This resulted in even more protests of both the boat and the need for the increased law enforcement presence on Molokai.
With this new agreement, the Safari Explorer will continue to visit Molokai until April. “We look forward to our return next season in November,” said Blanchard.