American Safari Cruises (ASC) owner Dan Blanchard announced yesterday that the Safari Explorer yacht will not dock on Molokai as scheduled this weekend. The cancellation followed a community meeting Wednesday night, which was attended by over 300 residents.
While residents testified both for and against the yacht’s Molokai stop, Blanchard said enough residents voiced concerns that the company decided to postpone docking until the company could talk to more community members.
“We are committed to further dialogue and will respectfully work with leaders in the community,” Blanchard said via email Thursday.
“We are not against this cruise ship,” said activist Walter Ritte, who had led protests against the yacht. “[Thirty-six people is] not a big deal. So why are we protesting? Nobody asked us what are our concerns … We demand participation and control.”
For some, the yacht and its passengers bring much-needed income.
“If I never had tourists coming in our store, we wouldn’t make it,” said one local businesswoman. “Give them [ASC] a chance.”
Others say a subsistence lifestyle is what supports them, and they argue money is not enough reason to allow the Safari Explorer to dock on Molokai.
“I hunt, I fish, I farm — I can live without your money,” resident Anela Albino told Blanchard at the meeting.
Zeke Kalua, a Molokai native and executive assistant to Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa, said his attendance at the meeting was neither in support nor opposition of the yacht, but said he “represents a majority of sons and daughters who can’t come home right now” because of the poor economy.
“We have to take into consideration that progress can be made without destroying the island,” he said.
County Council Chair and Molokai representative Danny Mateo agreed, saying after the meeting, “our island’s economy is dying. We gotta bring our kids home.”
“The time has come to decide as a community what the role [of tourism] is – what is acceptable,” he added.