Interagency task force provides update on fight to eradicate invasive species

Lawmakers have been updated on a 10-year inter-agency plan launched two years ago to help manage biosecurity risks. The annual budget's about $60 million, and the task force wants the budget raised to nearly $100 million.
KITV - January 21, 2020
By: 
Annalisa Burgos

The "Hawaii Invasive Species Council" believes more agriculture inspectors and pest control staff are needed in the fight against Hawaii's hurting economy and natural resources.

Lawmakers have been updated on a 10-year inter-agency plan launched two years ago to help manage biosecurity risks. The annual budget's about $60 million, and the task force wants the budget raised to nearly $100 million. 

Among the non-native species causing big problems -- are brown tree snakes, miconia, coqui frogs, Coconut Rhinoceros Beetles, and little fire ants that have plague the Big Island and Oahu.

"Farm workers that are out there, and they're picking the coffee berries, and then all of a sudden these little fire ants are coming down their face and in their hair and stinging, that's very real. But see, we need to give them the resources on what to do," said Senator Mike Gabbard.

"A majority of these things are brought here by imported plants, a lot of which we could grow here, if we just had the political will to crack down on it," Rep Nicole Lowen said.

A big part of conservation efforts is public awareness and community involvement.

"When there is a threat to to flora or fauna in Hawaii, especially for flora, what we do in response to that is actually go out and collect seeds for the future just in case something has to happen and we lose all of our ohi'a or anything like that," said Ambyr Mokiao-Lee, outreach coordinator for environmental group Rapid Ohi'a Death.

Pests can hitch rides on plants like Christmas trees, so conservationists want more funding to implement stricter policies to prevent entry in the first place.

Hawaii U-S Senator Ed Case and Hawaii U-S Representative Tulsi Gabbard recently introduced a bill requiring agriculture screenings for all baggage and cargo headed for Hawaii.