At a ceremony at the state Capitol Monday, Gov. David Ige proclaimed Invasive Species Awareness Week.
The event was part of a day-long celebration to bring attention to invasive species across the islands and to recognize volunteers, organizations and businesses who play a critical role in addressing what the state Legislature called “the single greatest threat to Hawai‘i’s economy, natural environment and to the health and lifestyle of Hawai‘i’s people.”
Little fire ants, coconut rhinoceros beetles, albizia trees, rats, mongoose, strawberry guava, coqui frogs, miconia, fireweed and invasive algae all share one common trait — they’re among o the worst invasive species in the islands. Additionally, Hawai‘i’s isolation has made the state home to more invasive species than anywhere else in the United States.
During the 3rd annual Hawai‘i Invasive Species Awareness Week, the Hawai‘i Invasive Species Council and the state agencies charged with combatting and controlling invasive species will share information and engage people across the state to raise awareness about the part everyone can play to help eliminate these pests from our land and the ocean. The message is “Invasive Species are Everyone’s Kuleana.”
The Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources co-chair the Hawai‘i Invasive Species Council with member agencies including the state Department of Health, the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, the state Department of Transportation, and the University of Hawai‘i. This interdepartmental collaboration was authorized by the state Legislature in 2003 and includes participation and counsel from state senators and representatives, additional state agencies, county mayors and federal agency representatives.
“Representation from such a broad and diverse group of agencies and individuals is not only symbolic of our commitment to protect Hawai‘i from invasive species, but in practicality provides a strong framework for interagency coordination,” DOA Chair Scott Enright said. “Invasive species don’t recognize boundaries in their movements, so we can’t afford to have bureaucratic boundaries or limitations that slow down or diminish our responses to controlling them.”
Carty Chang, interim DLNR chairperson, said HISC aims to maintain a comprehensive overview of issues and implementation of statewide invasive species prevention, and an early detection and control program for terrestrial and aquatic invaders.
The focus is on programmatic and capacity shortfalls not currently addressed by state agencies. It is hoped that the HISC-funded projects will be a testing ground for new methods and capacity to address invasive species; that over time will be adopted permanently by agencies, freeing up HISC resources to further promote innovation and address gaps in the overall effort to effectively manage invasive species.
Over the past year, the environmental impacts of invasive species like the little fire ant and coconut rhinoceros beetle have captured headlines numerous times, as they’ve spread from one island to another and from one tree or pile of wood to another. The damage these and other invasive species exact on native terrestrial and aquatic species, on people, pets and livestock is incalculable both from an ecosystem standpoint and from an economic standpoint.
Hawai‘i’s Invasive Species Week is being staged in coordination with the U.S. National Invasive Species Week and a number of regional Pacific invasive species awareness efforts in Palau and Samoa.
Visit http://www.dlnr.hawaii.gov/hisc/info/species for more information.