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Biosecurity talk headlines first official day of governors meeting in South Kohala

KOHALA COAST — Governors from throughout the West on Tuesday came together for a talk about biosecurity, as well as the potential for interstate collaboration on preventing and combating invasive species.

The conversation came during the first official day of the Western Governors’ Association 2018 Winter Meeting at The Fairmont Orchid on the Kohala Coast.

Prior to opening the meeting, Gov. David Ige, who serves as the current chairman of the association, said Tuesday afternoon that the issue of biodiversity is one that impacts every state in the West.

“Because of our isolation, oftentimes we don’t think about what happens when you share a border with another state or share waterways or roadways or highways,” the governor said. “And clearly, all of the Western states are challenged with invasive species creating havoc all across the western United States.”

That focus on biosecurity also was the point of conversation for the first roundtable of the meeting, offering governors a chance to hear from experts about the ecological and economic impacts of invasive species as well as what’s been found to have worked, particularly through partnerships and collaborations.

One notable experience cited during the panel relates to the importation of Christmas trees into Hawaii from Oregon and Washington, from where the state’s Christmas trees primarily come.

Prior to collaborating with partners in those states, said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, Hawaii had a 49 percent hold on Christmas tree imports.

But by working with the departments of agriculture in Oregon and Washington, she said, they were able to bring that hold rate down to just 2 percent, meaning 98 percent of Christmas trees that were imported into Hawaii this year passed inspection.

“So that’s a very important success for us,” she said. “It prevents us from invasives like slugs, snails and other insects that might affect our forestry industry.”

Shimabukuro-Geiser also pointed to efforts combating specific species such as the little fire ant and coconut rhinoceros beetle, including by reaching out to shippers that move plant material among the islands.

And specifically regarding the coconut rhinoceros beetle, she said, they’ve made use of thousands of traps on Oahu as well as regular surveys of coconut plants to prevent beetles from being introduced to the state from elsewhere. Not only has that helped control and limit the beetle’s spread, she said, they also were able to eradicate the beetle entirely from small communities on Oahu.

Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Ralph Torres pointed to the damage the coconut rhinoceros beetle wrought on Guam’s coconut trees and said the beetles recently were found on Rota, which is part of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Given the risk the beetles pose, he said, it’s critical all the islands work collaboratively.

Ige agreed on that point, saying he thinks working together on this matter can benefit everyone.

“Because, clearly, biosecurity is a team sport,” he said. “And we can only make efforts to stop the importation of invasives by working together and sharing information.”

Email Cameron Miculka at cmiculka@westhawaiitoday.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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