Big money means big trouble for invasive coqui frog

Big Island lawmakers recently announced a $4.9 million Legislative appropriation toward eradicating infestation of the coqui frog menace and implementing prevention programs for the threat of invasive species.

The frog has been at the forefront of an issue that has severely impacted the environment and the quality of life for many island residents, a press release states.

“The Big Island community requested additional assistance to control and eradicate coqui infestation, which has gown to over 5,000 acres on the island of Hawai‘i,” state Rep. Clifton Tsuji, D – South Hilo, Pana‘ewa, Puna, Kea‘au, Kurtistown, says in the release.

“The additional resources will help the state, county, business and community groups to strengthen their partnership,” Rep Tsuji states.

The Legislature earmarked $2 million specifically for the control and eradication of coqui frogs. Of that amount, $1.8 million is focused on Big Island programs.

If Big Island infestations are not reduced, re-infestations of other islands and restrictions on Hawai‘i’s agricultural exports are likely, the release states.

The remaining $200,000 will go toward eradication programs on other islands, with $50,000 slotted for 15 acres on Kaua‘i.

Officials said now that infestations are under control on Maui, O‘ahu and Kaua‘i, complete eradication is now the target.

Another $2.9 million will be set aside for prevention and control of invasive species in Hawai‘i at airports and harbors.

The federal government maintains an inspection staff of 450 to monitor goods shipped from Hawai‘i to the Mainland whereas the Department of Agriculture employs only 75 inspectors to monitor goods shipped Hawai‘i from the Mainland.

Recent experimental risk assessments at Kahului and Honolulu airports showed that the Department of Agriculture detected one out of 100 detectable invasive species, the press release states. As such, an additional 58 inspectors will be hired, including 45 at state harbors and airports.

Eradication is much more costly than prevention, officials said.

The potential harm to Hawai‘i ranges in the hundreds of millions of dollars if species such as the red imported fire ant, brown tree snake, biting midges or other invasive species are allowed into the state, the release states.

Before the start of the next session, the Legislature will expect progress reports on the work accomplished by county, state, federal, business and community partners in this effort, as well as an indication on future needs.

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