October 9, 2019

Lanai’s New Harbor Agent Keeps Waters Safe

Lanai’s harbors have gotten safer since Joelle Aoki became a harbor agent on Lanai. Appointed by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, Aoki is responsible for overseeing the recreation and commercial ocean activities within the surrounding harbors of the Manele Small Boat Harbor, the dry dock and offshore marines located around Lanai. The long list of harbor operations duties also includes regulating the movement of vessels, assigning berths and collecting fees.

Aoki learned of the position from several Lanai residents, and after a lengthy interview process, she was selected for the job. She previously served as the executive director of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Lanai and has over 25 years of grant management and military liaison experience, which are especially relevant for communicating pertinent information to the public and harbor users.

Family on the water

Aoki says she never planned on being a harbor agent, but it is a role that her family is familiar with. Aoki’s father, Henry (Ahyin) Kau Aki was a harbor master of Kaumalapau Harbor for many years.

As a child, Aoki remembers spending hours on the dock with her dad watching the barge come in. Aoki’s first cousin and uncle also operated tugboats. “Maybe I was meant to be here,” Aoki reflected.

Reviving the dock

After starting in June, Aoki has been breathing new life into the dock with many repairs and improvements. Aoki cleared overgrown limu, removed piles of rocks and tree branches from the harbor area, and fixed leaks around the property. She also put up new signs in the parking lot to help ensure the area is well defined, and she is looking forward to fixing the rock groin that has started to crumble.

Making these repairs and upgrades has been a community affair. Family members and volunteers have also played a role in getting the dock to be operational and safer for the community.

While there are many things left to do when it comes to refreshing the dock, Aoki is up to the challenge. A part of what fuels her is a love for the environment and the island. “I was always in the water and I love the ocean. Returning to the ocean to work where I’m needed is fulfilling.”

Aoki’s top rules for a better and safer harbor

The community can help to make the harbor a safe place by following these simple rules:

  1. When you are at the harbor, avoid parking in the crosswalk, and drive safely so visitors and residents don’t get hurt.
  2. Fishing is allowed on the breakwater and within the Manele Small Boat Harbor. Pick up opala (trash) and fishing equipment, even if it’s not yours.
  3. Don’t fish on the docks, because fishing hooks left behind are dangerous for those untying and tying their boats.
  4. Come early for the ferry and don’t rush on the boat.
  5. Please observe rules on no alcohol and smoking tobacco.

Keeping our waters clean and safe for all is important for maintaining Lanai’s precious resources. If you have any questions about the Manele Small Boat Harbor, permitting or use, contact Joelle Aoki at 808-271-2595 or email her at

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