Too Much Activity Is Killing The Bay, People
Wednesday - October 14, 2009
Beautiful Maunalua Bay in Hawaii Kai has it all.
It begins with a healthy reef that is home to tako, papio, ulua and, if you’re lucky, the occasional school of oama or halalu. Its calm and pristine water is the perfect training ground for canoe and stand-up paddlers.
There are several breaks that offer lengthy rides for surfers willing to paddle more than 100 yards off-shore. It’s a popular stop for dive tours, Jet Ski operations and parasailing adventures, and its large boat ramp provides a safe and convenient launch site for hundreds of recreational fishermen and boaters.
Yes, Maunalua Bay offers something for everyone - but that’s where the problems begin.
The recent death of a 17-year-old diver has renewed discussion about the bay’s heavy use and the lack of monitoring by state officers. Keahihoku Lum was killed after he and a friend were run over by a 26-foot boat while diving near China Walls off Portlock Point. The boat’s operator rendered aid and brought the two victims to shore. Both were taken to the hospital, where Lum was pronounced dead.
The medical examiner says the Farrington High School senior died from injuries after being struck by a boat’s propeller. Lum’s friend survived. Lum’s family says the boys were diving with dive flags.
But while the state and U.S. Coast Guard continue their investigation, the tragedy reminds us of several other deaths and accidents in or just outside the bay.
In April 2009, a 24-year-old employee of a parasailing company died in waters off Hawaii Kai. Witnesses say the man was up in the air when he fell from the harness. A month earlier, a 60-year-old man died after falling off a fishing boat. Witnesses say a large wave hit the vessel and he went overboard.
On May 1, 2006, a 25-year-old visitor was killed in a Jet Ski accident. Three weeks later, on May 22, a 47-year-old lieutenant colonel died during a scuba dive tour.
And in June of 2002 a 31-year-old Salt Lake man also died in a Jet Ski accident. Several people also drowned during that same period at nearby Portlock and Spitting Caves.
Many say the number of deaths and accidents is a reflection of an overcrowded bay, especially during the weekends.
“Saturday and Sunday, wow, you got to watch out,” says local fisherman Bob Iyoki. “Get a lot of boats, you know, and they don’t go slow, they go fast!”
Iyoki and others who frequent the bay say the lack of enforcement of state and federal laws is one reason there are so many problems.
“They got to regulate something over here. You know, I don’t know how they going to do it, but I think they got to do something - too many people on the weekends,” says Iyoki.
Most agree there are too many people in one area. Some say it’s not uncommon to see boaters illegally launching from the ramp, tying up too long or simply speeding through “no-wake zones.”
“I think the boaters got to be more cautious about speeding through the channels and stuff,” says veteran canoe paddler Gavin Hanoa. “If you’re not paying attention - I mean, it’s the weekend, this bay is super-crowded with all kinds of ocean activity, from surfing to swimming to diving - and if they’re not watching out, anything could happen. Even if you’re on top of the water, you could get banged. The boy was so young ... that’s sad.”
It’s still unclear what really happened in the case involving the young diver from Kalihi, but what is certain is he left this earth too soon, and another family is mourning a devastating loss.
We’ve seen too many tragedies in an area known for its beauty. The state can only do so much. The rest is on us.
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