HONOLULU (KHON2) — It is the battle against the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle, Oahu is deemed as infested by the Department of Agriculture and it is now taking steps to stop the movement of the beetle to neighbor islands.
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The department’s advisory committee on plants and animals unanimously voted in favor of an interim rule to restrict the movement of certain palm plants to other counties.
The Department of Agriculture’s Acting Plant and Pest Control Manager Darcy Oishi said palm plants larger than four feet will not be allowed to be transported to the neighbor islands from Oahu. Smaller palm plants would require inspection and permit.
Oishi said, “The prohibition is on propagated plants that are taller than four feet that used to be allowed that are no longer being allowed.”
Other organic plant materials like compost and soil would also need to be inspected along with preventative actions like fumigation of the products before leaving Honolulu Harbor.
Oishi said, “Activities and actions taken by the department and our partners have not been sufficient to control the beetle populations here and this is, these actions are direct consequences of those failures.”
Oishi said there are no plans to bring on emergency staff to carry out the inspections, instead, existing staff will need to re-prioritize the workload.
The fear is that Coconut Rhinoceros Beetles will deplete the islands of coconut palm trees, as they have in parts of Guam.
There are reports of the beetles reaching Kauai and Maui.
The Maui County Arborist Committee Chair Duane Sparkman said more action should have been taken sooner.
“Why weren’t these protocols thought of ten years ago when they were first found in Pearl Harbor?” Sparkman said. “It should’ve been immediately thought of to stop trying to export material from Oahu to other islands just for this reason.”
Oishi agrees there needs to be more proactive action when battling invasive species.
Oishi said, “Invasive species unfortunately in my years of experience are not taken as seriously until the problems are hitting us very directly in the face.”
The new rules will take effect once the Board of Agriculture Chair Sharon Hurd signs the document and a 12-day public notice is published.