Fishermen complain police rained on their parade

Fisherman are frustrated that they were denied access to Mala Wharf on Saturday morning while the Na Kamehameha Commemorative Pa’u Parade proceeded down nearby Front Street in Lahaina.

Longtime fisherman Wilson Keahi said that he and others were stopped by police from getting to the wharf – even though there was no parade or traffic on the street in front of them.

“They just won’t let anyone to go in to go fishing. This is not right,” Keahi said Tuesday.

He added that the officers manning the traffic posts “were very rude,” and that fishermen from as far away as Haiku had to turn around and go home because all access areas to Mala Wharf were closed off for several hours.

Parade and event coordinator Daryl Fujiwara said Tuesday that he hadn’t heard about the complaints until The Maui News contacted him.

He said that the road closure, which is not new to the parade, does extend further than the parade route. The parade Saturday stretched from Kenui to Shaw streets. He estimated that the road closure lasted from about 8:45 to about 11:45 a.m. or noon.

Even though the parade began at Kenui Street on the northern end of Front Street and proceeded south, horse units and others staged along Ala Moana Street next to the wharf, Fujiwara said. He added that the road was closed to ensure the safety of everyone in the area and that the closures extended farther than the parade route and the staging area so that vehicles could be safely turned away.

Off-duty police officers man the posts and have discretion on monitoring traffic in the area, Fujiwara said.

Asked if there could be any changes made so that fisherman could access the wharf during next year’s parade, Fujiwara said: “Honestly, I can’t say that.”

Roadways around the area need to be closed for safety reasons, he said. He suggested that fishermen head down to the wharf before or after the parade time. Once people are in the wharf area, they are not chased out.

“It’s just that small window we need for safety,” Fujiwara said.

A reason for the fishermen’s complaints could have been that the parade lasted longer than usual, Fujiwara said. But he could not explain why the parade lasted longer. There were the usual number of entries of vehicles, floats and marching groups – 54 – and spectators were around 5,000, about the same as last year, he said.

Harry Reardon, owner of Harry’s Boat Yard in the Mala Wharf area, said that he was already down at the wharf when access to the area was shut off. He said he received numerous calls from boat owners, who have boats in his boatyard, saying they couldn’t get down to Mala Wharf.

This was the first time boaters didn’t have access during the parade, Reardon said.

Fishermen said they were told the closure would last three hours. Some said that, if they waited, it would have been too late to launch their boats.

Keahi said there were boaters from Wailuku, Haiku and even one fisherman from Oahu who wanted access to Mala Wharf. Many of the boaters had to throw away their supplies, such as ice, he said.

Keahi, an Oahu fisherman, wanted to catch nabeta (a deep water parrotfish) for his father and father-in-law for Father’s Day on Sunday, Keahi said.

He added that a boy he was to take fishing was very disappointed.

“He cried all day. He couldn’t go fishing. That was sad,” he said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at