Exploring the Case of Cruise Ships Illegally Venturing Close to Hawaii’s Protected Coastline

Hawaii state authorities are currently examining two cruise vessels that improperly cruised near to Kauai’s treasured Na Pali Coastline, confirmed by a statement sent via email by the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) on a recent Tuesday.

The media was flooded with images of the ships, and sharp-eyed kamaaina (locals) were the ones to bring the problem to the awareness of the authorities,” was written in the announcement.

According to the statement by HTA, they are in continuous dialogue with the cruise lines as well as other cruise ship companies that navigate to Hawaii with the aim to “emphasize the importance of abiding by all state and local rules on our islands.”

The Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the entity that has control over Hawaii’s coastal waters, refrained from commenting on the investigation that is still underway.

DLNR and HTA have not revealed the names of the cruise lines that were seen sailing considerably closer to Kauaʻi’s northern shores than the state regulations permit. Posts on social media, nonetheless, depict one of these vessels as the Celebrity Edge, a ship from Celebrity Cruises that holds nearly 3,000 passengers.

The journey of the cruise commenced in Honolulu on May 1, progressed past Kauai on a Thursday, and made a halt at Hawaii Island over the weekend. The cruise is set to proceed towards Vancouver, Canada later.

Spokesperson from the parent company of Celebrity, the Royal Caribbean Group, shared in an email statement their commitment towards stern policies in place for upholding compliance with local rules globally. They also assured their continuous evaluation of said policies and proactive steps to facilitate operation in the most responsible way possible.

With its spectacular cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and verdant valleys, the Na Pali Coast happens to be one of Hawaii’s most celebrated coastlines. Its renown can also be attributed to its appearance in popular films like ‘King Kong’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, and ‘Jurassic Park’.

Home to endemic flora and fauna, the state park comprises over 3,500 protected acres. It is also a sacred place where the ancient Native Hawaiians once lived, and their heiaus (temples) and petroglyphs can still be found there today.

The waters surrounding the coastline are also protected. Since 1988, state law prohibits commercial vessels with 50 or more passengers from operating “within the Na Pali Coast ocean waters.” These waters are defined as 3,000 feet seaward along the eastern boundary of Moloaa Bay and the southernmost boundary of the Na Pali Coast State Park.

DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement told Hawaii News Now it received “numerous reports” from residents who spotted the cruise ships sailing in “very shallow water” at approximately only 1,000 feet offshore last week.

“Some of the shots that were taken from the air actually showed the sand being disturbed at the bottom, so all of these environmental impacts that it created was very upsetting to me,” Presley Wann, a Kauai resident, told Hawaii News Now.

Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at kwong@usatoday.com.

Contributing: Nathan Diller, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cruise ships caught sailing illegally close to Kauai’s Na Pali Coast

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