March 4 marks first Hawaii 'Invasive Species Week'

Tourism, real estate, health, agriculture affected

Published  8:02 PM HST Mar 04, 2013
HONOLULU -

"It's not just one or two ranches. It's growing and growing," began Big Island rancher Tim Richards, who is with the Hawaii Cattlemen's Association.

He's talking about the fireweed, which is threatening to take down the Big Island's ranching industry.

"We have 25 percent of our state land mass affected by this and estimates are it will double in 10 years and affect over 2 million of over 4 million of our land if we do nothing," he said.

The Coqui Frog is another major problem, with its screeching calls destroying property values.

The blue mussel has become the latest problem, this time, brought here by tsunami debris from Japan.

"Our big thing is the response to it. We need to irradiate it before becomes a threat to the environment," said Scott Godwin of the Papahanamokuakea National Monument.

"It's because of global events we are more at risk," said Department of Land and Natural Resources Director William Aila.

At the state capitol on Monday, the people fighting to control problems devastating the islands, kicked off "Invasive Species Awareness Week," and honored those who've spent years, decades, fighting the problem and raising awareness.

Darcy Oishi, the Department of Agriculture's Biological Control Section Chief, has been one of many researchers partnering closely with other departments, to find new ways to battle back against invasive species, more recently, releasing the fireweed moth, on the Big Island.

"We have a caterpillar that feeds on it. The ranchers are now breeding caterpillars because they need it to recover range lands again," he said.

In other areas, workers have learned to grow their own sea urchins to replaced damaged sea life, or use hot water to control Coquis Frogs.

They are but a few examples of a new expanded way of thinking to preserve Hawaii's precious native species.

"All of us have a role to play, but we have to play together," said Gary Gill, Deputy Director for the Department of Health.

The state has launched a new online program called "Hawaii Bioblitz 2013: What's in Your Backyard?"

People can take pictures of plants or animals anywhere in Hawaii and post them on the Project Noah website or mobile app.

Dozens of local experts will analyze and identify your pictures.

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