Senate recognizes KISC, other invasive species committees in Hawai‘i

LIHU‘E — Mohsen Ramadan of the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture biological control program and the county-based invasive species committees were recognized by the state Senate at the Legislature Wednesday.

Sen. Mike Gabbard, D-Waikele, said the programs and individual were selected because the state’s ecosystems are in a crisis due to invasive species. The Invasive Species Committee is on the front line of combating the threat, the Hawai‘i Invasive Species Council states in a news release.

“It is important to recognize all of the invasive species committees, especially the Maui and Moloka‘i committees, because they are on the front lines of protecting Hawai‘i’s ecosystem from invasive species,” state Sen. J. Kalani English, D-Hana, Moloka‘i, states in a news release.

The committees, including the Kaua‘i Invasive Species Committee, are projects of the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit and the Research Corporation of the University of Hawai‘i.

They are island-based partnerships that work with gencies, non profit organizations, and private businesses and landowners to protect each island from the most threatening pests with a proactive approach.

The Maui Invasive Species Committee was the first of the committees to form in 1999 and works to protect the Valley Isle from coqui frogs, pampas grass, veiled chameleons and miconia.

“We appreciate the work of the Maui Invasive Species Committee,” said Sen. Rosalyn Baker, D-South and West Maui. “They are helping to ensure the survival of our native species.”

Invasive Species Committee units on Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Maui, Moloka‘i and the Big Island have a staff which includes field crews working across thousands of acres each year to rapidly respond to and control invasive pests.

Ramadan was recognized as an important member of the statewide network committed to addressing invasive species issues.

“Ramadan is recognized internationally as one of the best exploratory entomologists because of the dedication and passion he brings to his work in defense of our native species,” Gabbard states in the news release. “But what makes him unique is his willingness to risk his life in remote and hostile locales all over the world to find bio-control agents to eradicate or control invasive species.”

Biological control is an important tool to manage widespread pests that are beyond the capacity of Invasive Species Committee field crews.

Ramadan was responsible for finding the natural predator of the Erythrina gall wasp in its native range in Tanzania.

The gall wasp arrived undetected on cargo ships in 2005, devastating Hawai‘i’s native wiliwili trees, as well as ornamental species of Erythrina used in landscaping and as agricultural windbreaks. The successful release of the bio-control agent discovered by Ramadan in 2008 has resulted in a comeback of the native wiliwili trees.

“Mahalo to the dedicated men and women of the ISCs for their diligence in preventing, controlling and eliminating the most threatening invasive plant and animal species to preserve our native biodiversity,” Gabbard said. “They work hard to keep Hawai‘i naturally beautiful, as it should be.”

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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