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Damaged coral reef off Kona leads to $100K settlement between state, luxury yacht owners

  • COURTESY HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES
                                The 197-foot luxury yacht, Formosa.

    COURTESY HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES

    The 197-foot luxury yacht, Formosa.

  • COURTESY HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES
                                Damaged coral. Yacht owners of the Formosa accused of damaging coral in October 2018 when they dropped anchor in Kailua Bay on Hawaii island.

    COURTESY HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES

    Damaged coral. Yacht owners of the Formosa accused of damaging coral in October 2018 when they dropped anchor in Kailua Bay on Hawaii island.

  • COURTESY HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES
                                Damaged coral. Yacht owners of the Formosa are accused of damaging coral in October 2018 when they dropped anchor in Kailua Bay on Hawaii island.

    COURTESY HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES

    Damaged coral. Yacht owners of the Formosa are accused of damaging coral in October 2018 when they dropped anchor in Kailua Bay on Hawaii island.

The owners of a luxury yacht reached a $100,000 settlement agreement with the state after the owners were accused of causing extensive damage to coral colonies when the yacht dropped anchor in waters off of Kona in October 2018.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources voted Friday to approve the settlement with the Formosa Wealth Management Group, owners of the 197-foot luxury yacht. Under the settlement, the owners are to pay $100,000 to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Aquatic Resources which will go toward supporting coral reef management and restoration in West Hawaii, according to a news release by the state agency.

Biologists estimated damage made to stony coral species that covered an area of 11,294 square feet. The area had approximately 50 to 70% of live coral cover.

According to Aquatic Resources, the yacht damaged approximately 431 coral colonies of stony coral and approximately 150 square feet of live rock when the yacht dropped anchor in Kailua Bay.

The state said employees of Big Island Watersports noticed the yacht’s anchor was not properly set. Employees of the Atlantis Submarine also witnessed and documented damage to coral. After anchoring in the area, the companies reported to the state that the yacht later moved to deeper water and anchored in sand.

A team comprised of Aquatic Resources’ biologists, contractors and technicians surveyed the yacht’s anchoring sites and took photos of impacted coral.

After completing their assessment, the team administered dives to stabilize more than 50 large coral colonies and 250 coral fragments in the surrounding reef.

In a statement, Aquatic Resources’ biologist Nikki Smith in Kona described damage to the Porites compressa coral bed as “quite extensive,” noting a lot of the damage was caused by the anchor’s chain “swinging through the bed.”

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