Hawaii is not only paradise for people seeking adventure, relaxation, big waves and fun, it is also a haven for invasive species. State legislature in Hawaii has proclaimed the invasives problem “…the single greatest threat to Hawaii’s economy, natural environment and to the health and lifestyle of Hawaii’s people.” Among the offenders are little fire ants, coconut rhinoceros beetles, albizia trees, rats, mongoose, strawberry guava, coqui frogs, miconia, fireweed and non-native algae, just to name a few.
The isolation of the island state has, contrary to logic, made it more vulnerable to invasion and colonization by non-native species. Hawaii is about to hold its 3rd annual Hawaii Invasive Species Awareness Week (HISAW), during which the Hawaii Invasive Species Council (HISC) and participating state agencies will try to expand public knowledge about the dangerous invaders, and what they can do to help stem the spread. The official message for HISAW is “Invasive Species are Everyone’s Kuleana (Hawaiian for responsibility).”
An interdepartmental, collaborative team was assembled in 2003 to address the ongoing wave of invasive species. The team is made up of staff and members from The Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture (DOA) and the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) co-chair the Hawaii Invasive Species Council with member agencies including the Dept. of Health (DOH), the Dept. of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), the Dept. of Transportation (DOT), and the University of Hawaii.
Scott Enright, the chairperson of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture explains why this all hands in approach is necessary and expected: “Representation from such a broad and diverse group of agencies and individuals is not only symbolic of our commitment to protect Hawaii from invasive species, but in practicality provides a strong framework for interagency coordination. 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.”