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Opposing sides in Molokai cruise ship dispute to meet Wednesday

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Photo Courtesy Walter Ritte

State transportation officials are hoping the issue about cruise ships docking on Molokai will be resolved after a scheduled meeting of the conflicting parties Wednesday, department spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said.

"We’re hoping they reach an agreement," he said.

Facing criticism from some residents, American Safari Cruises owner Dan Blanchard is scheduled to meet with them at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Mitchell Pauole Center in Kaunakanai.

Cruise company spokeswoman Sarah Scoltolk declined to return a telephone call but said in an email she would have more information after the Wednesday meeting.

Some native Hawaiians in small boats and on surfboards blocked the entrance into Kaunakakai Harbor Saturday, preventing an American Safari Cuise ship from docking on Molokai with 30 passengers.

An American Safari Cruise ship docked on Sunday, but its caravan of passengers experienced a shortened land tour to east Molokai after a fallen tree and stalled car blocked the main road to Halawa Valley. 

Protest leader Walter Ritte said the groups representing native Hawaiians from various parts of Molokai want Blanchard to agree to halt all cruises while they’re trying to come to an understanding.

"Our position is we want to talk but not before he stops these tours," Ritte said.

American Safari is scheduled to make a stopover on Molokai Friday, he said.

Ritte said the native Hawaiian groups represented by `Aha Kiole o Molokai want American Safari to agree to tour protocols that protect the natural resources of Molokai, where many native Hawaiians rely on hunting and gathering to supplement food purchased in stores for their families.

"We’re willing to abide with whatever `Aha comes up with," he said.

Ritte said government laws do not protect the natural resources sufficiently to ensure sustainable resources and people are allowed at will to take as much as they want without asking residents.

Meisenzahl said cruise line is using a commercial dock and is not required to develop an environmental assessment since no state funds are being expended to make improvements.

But he said the department is following the talks between American Safari and Molokai groups closely and hoping both will arrive at a resolution.

"It’s a sensitive issue…We will continue to see how the situation progresses," he said.


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