State makes strides toward strengthening biosecurity

LIHUE — New technology for detecting invasive species on cargo shipments and detector dog teams for agricultural inspections are just two steps out of dozens the state is making toward reinforcing biosecurity in Hawaii.

In addition, a new invasive species mobile app has been launched and a mosquito surveillance network is being rebuilt, and efforts are being increased to address rat lungworm disease, rapid ohia death and rose-ringed parakeets.

It’s all part of the 10-year Hawaii Interagency Biosecurity Plan in its first year of implementation.

“This work is a collaboration across the legislative and executive branches, and across the agencies and stakeholders connected to the issue of biosecurity,” said Scott Enright, state Board of Agriculture chairperson.

The state Department of Agriculture announced with the state departments of Land and Natural Resources and Health and the University of Hawaii that work has begun on about 40 percent of the 147 action items outlined in the biosecurity plan.

It’s all connected, according to staff members and experts working on the plan.

“The HDOA inspection work at airports directly impacts our ability to protect our mauka forests,” said state Board of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case.

Another example is DLNR’s collaboration with DOH on marine vessel cleaning, which helps reduce new species introductions to the islands.

“When we work together on these issues, we all win,” Case said.

First year accomplishments for DLNR include improvements to the management of ballast water that enters the state within ship hulls, often carrying aquatic organisms.

Money from the Legislature in 2017 enabled work on rapid ohia death and rose-ringed parakeets.

Detector dog teams used for agricultural inspections and new technologies for digitally tracking incoming cargo that could be high-risk are the accomplishments of HDOA in the first year. The DOA also received authorizations in the 2017 Clift Tsuji Act.

New positions in the DOH Vector Control Branch have been filled, and UH is working with invasive species committees to specialize detection and response.

DLNR will be seeking money and personnel to increase invasive plant and animal control in native forests and HDOA will be looking to fund a biological control research facility.

Agriculture loan monies will also be sought to support local farmers, according to HDOA staff members.

The new invasive species reporting site is another development. This allows people to upload photos and map coordinates when reporting invasive species sightings, allowing for faster response by appropriate agencies, according to DLNR.

“We need the public to be our eyes and ears to detect new pests and keep them from becoming established,” Enright said. “This new system makes that really convenient.”

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