The state Dept. of Agriculture is fighting to keep invasive species from entering Hawaii. It finds one to two of them every week — some of them insects that have never been seen before.
It’s trying to avert what happened with coqui frogs that first appeared on Hawaii Island and made its way to Maui. The most problematic area is concentrated on the east side of Maui, where there are two remote gulches. The Maui Invasive Species Council is currently trying its best to eradicate the population every couple of weeks.
The department says if it doesn’t step up its efforts, we could see — and hear — the tiny frogs on Oahu.
To help with this, chairman Scott Enright says the Dept. of Agriculture has a 10-year plan called the Hawaii Interagency Biosecurity Plan. “It would be the first time the state is taking invasive species seriously,” he said.
Tackling invasive species takes a lot of time, energy, and funding — little fire ants, for example, are predicted to cause an economic loss of about $140 million over the next decade.
“Invasive species move in many different ways,” Enright said, “and not just in agriculture. They move on household goods, they move on all kinds of freights, so we need a far more comprehensive approach to invasive species.”
The department’s plan will implement four programs of biosecurity:
- Pre-border – which will prevent the transportation of invasive species to Hawaii.
- Border – to enhance the detection and control of pests and diseases at ports of entry.
- Post-border – protecting the state from invasive species that are already present.
- Public awareness and support – to educate people about Hawaii’s biosecuirty, even integrating invasive species studies in school curriculum.
“The price tag for the projects we currently have in the plan are somewhere around $50 million,” Enright said.
Christy Martin of the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species says the plan is needed. “It really is a multi-agency plan,” she said, “so finally we’re working together with agriculture, with forestry, and with the health industry because we’re talking about mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are non-native, they are invasive species.”
One of the first steps is to enact necessary legislative amendments — for example, statutes are needed to enable the Dept. of Agriculture to inspect non-agricultural commodities.
“We just don’t have the authority to look at all of the things that may bring in invasive species,” Martin said, “and we certainly don’t have the capacity right now to put out more bio-control on those species that could help do the work.”
The department will be holding meetings statewide for public input on the biosecurity plan, starting Tuesday:
- Oahu: Tuesday, Oct. 4, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at McKinley High School Cafeteria, 1039 S. King St., Honolulu
- Kauai: Wednesday, Oct.5, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at Wilcox Elementary School Cafeteria, 4319 Hardy St., Lihue
- Maui: Thursday, Oct. 6, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at Pomaikai Elementary School Cafeteria, 4650 South Kamehameha Ave., Kahului
- Molokai: Saturday, Oct. 8, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. at Kaunakakai Elementary School Cafeteria, 30 Ailoa St., Kaunakakai
- Hilo: Wednesday, Oct. 12, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at Hilo High School Cafeteria, 556 Waianuenue Ave., Hilo
- Kona: Thursday, Oct. 13, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at Kealakehe High School Cafeteria, 74-5000 Puohulihuli St., Kailua-Kona
- Lanai: Saturday, Oct. 15, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. at Lanai High & Elementary School Cafeteria, 555 Fraser Ave., Lanai City
The draft plan may be viewed by clicking here.