Posted on Oct 4, 2023 in Boating, Boating & Ocean Recreations, Main, Media, News Releases, slider


Oct. 4, 2023


To view video please click on photo

(HONOLULU) – DLNR Chair Dawn Chang listened to and responded to dozens of questions from West Maui recreational boaters and commercial tour operators during a virtual information meeting on Tuesday. More than 450 community members, commercial operators, fishers, and other interested stakeholders dialed into the virtual meeting to get updates from the DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) about the status of West Maui’s commercial and recreational vessel activities.

Emotions ran high during the meeting, as Chang acknowledged the tremendous losses many people have suffered, including the loss of loved ones, homes, and vessels. The August 8 Lāhainā wildfire destroyed the Lāhainā Small Boat harbor, including at least 80 vessels. U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) representatives also attended the virtual meeting. USCG contractors have begun the process of salvaging sunken vessels that were destroyed.

Jim Walsh, the general manager for Atlantis Submarines, said his company’s passenger ferry the Holokai, burned by the Lāhainā fire, is planning to take the vessel to Honolulu for repairs now that the harbor channel has been cleared of debris and sunken vessels. On behalf of owners who still have boats floating at the Lāhainā harbor, he asked whether DLNR has a place for them to relocate. Chang admitted that given the finite number of slips and moorings, not only in west Maui, but around the island, it’s going to be very difficult to accommodate and satisfy everyone.

Many of the other commercial operators who had slips at the Lāhainā Harbor, lost their vessels to the fire. Some vessel owners lost everything, including their homes and property. The only thing they have left is their slip. They expressed their frustration, pain, and fear. They’re uncertain whether they still have slips because they were told by DOBOR staff that current rules require anyone seeking a permit to have a slip in a state small boat harbor to have a seaworthy vessel.

Chang explained that for those who do not have vessels, DOBOR will put their names on a waitlist to be issued a slip once Lāhainā harbor is operational. That explanation was not satisfactory as some expressed that there have been exceptions made in the past for similar situations. After listening to their heartfelt stories, Chang pledged that she will review past practices and reconsider greater assurances of slips at the rebuilt Lāhainā harbor.

However, most of the questions and concerns related to resumption of commercial vessel activities at Mala Wharf. Conflicts between recreational boaters and tour companies existed prior to the fire. One suggestion is to restrict commercial operations at Mala Wharf to Monday through Friday operations and have it open 24-7 for recreational boaters. Chang informed the participants that DOBOR does not plan to reopen Mala until it can provide a staff presence onsite with a portable office trailer and bathroom facilities. She said it will take about 30-60 days to install the trailer at Mala Wharf.

Numerous times Chang encouraged the community and tour operators to find common ground and to work together to come up with an equitable plan to avoid further conflict once Mala reopens. She said, “We cannot do this alone, and we need all your help to improve operations at the small boat ramp, which is just north of the Lāhainā Small Boat Harbor.

After almost 3 hours of questions and answers, Chang acknowledged that the issues of commercial and recreational use of the Mala Wharf are much deeper than hours of operations or bathrooms. She polled the attendees whether they would be open to expanding trailer parking at Lāhainā Small Boat Harbor to accommodate Mala commercial operators and make Mala Wharf available for recreational use only. An overwhelming majority of 87% voted yes. Chang said no guarantees, but she would commit to gathering more information and future meetings with the Maui community to discuss all the options.

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(All images/video courtesy: DLNR)

HD video – West Maui commercial permitting meeting (Oct. 3, 2023):


HD video – Mala Wharf (Sept. 26, 2023):


HD video – Boat owners visit Lāhainā Small Boat Harbor (Sept. 13, 2023):


(7:11-10:14, Atlantis Submarine’s Holokai and Jim Walsh)

HD video – Lāhainā Small Boat Harbor Inner Basin Cleanup and Salvage, Sept. 26, 2023:


Photographs – West Maui commercial permitting meeting (Oct. 3, 2023):


Photographs – Mala Wharf (Sept. 26, 2023):


Photographs – Lāhainā Small Boat Harbor salvage operations (Sept. 26, 2023):


Photographs – Boat owners visit Lāhainā Small Boat Harbor (Sept. 13, 2023):


YouTube link to entire West Maui commercial permitting meeting:


Media Contact:

Dan Dennison
Communications Director
(808) 587-0396
[email protected]