State Biosecurity Plan Update

Honolulu Public Radio - January 7, 2019
By: 
Wayne Yoshioka

The State Department of Agriculture briefed members of the Senate today on some of its budget priorities.

Biosecurity: keeping out invasive species like the Brown Tree Snake from Guam is one of the top priorities for Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee Chair, Mike Gabbard, who reviewed the State Department of Agriculture Budget request.

“You know I was looking at your report and it mentioned that 90 percent of all the vessels coming from Guam had been inspected and Brown Tree Snake – BTS – if they ever come here it’s gonna be a $2B impact on our economy.”

Board of Agriculture Chair and department director, Scott Enright, says his 16 million dollar state general fund request includes four new Plant Quarantine positions.

Scott Enright, state board of agriculture chair and department director

“ An Entomologist, a Plant Pathologist, a Botanist and an IT expert. Those 4 will be doing risk analysis assessments from out E-manifesting platform. So, in real time, we are going to know what’s in the air and what’s on the water, then we know what we have to look at. We look at every strawberry that comes into the state; we don’t look at any of the mushrooms.”

Those positions are part of the state’s Comprehensive Interagency Biosecurity Plan with 147 individual action items. Rabies, however, is not that big of a concern these days and Enright says the Department of Agriculture will be vacating its animal quarantine station in Halawa Valley.

“Over the course of the last twenty years, we’ve gone from 2,700 animals kept every day at those facilities down to 2-3 hundred. We release 89 percent of all the animals at the airport now that come into the state. We’ve done some rule changes that will take us up to more than 95 percent that get released at the airport.”

The department will continue to screen for rabies and focus more on animals from Central America and Asia.