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Hawaii Island Mangrove Poisoned: Update on Who is Really Behind the Eradication

Poisoned mangrove on Hawaii island (photo by Syd Singer)

BY SYDNEY ROSS SINGER - The lawsuit filed against Malama o Puna et al for poisoning mangroves at Pohoiki, Vacationland (Wai Opae), Onekahakaha Beach Park in Hilo, and Paki Bay is still in the courts. Here is an update.

Background: Malama o Puna has dedicated itself to the complete eradication of mangroves from the Big Island. They experimented at Wai Opae with a new, cheap method of eradicating mangroves, using herbicide to kill the trees and leave them to rot in place. The poisoning of about 20 acres at Wai Opae was done in 2008. In the Fall of 2009, several acres of mangroves at Paki Bay, owned by the Shipmans, were poisoned. By about December, 2009, mangroves at Pohoiki began to be poisoned. In Spring 2010, Onekahakaha Beach Park mangroves were poisoned. In all, about 35 acres of mangroves along the shoreline have been poisoned and left to rot.

The big trees were injected with poison and smaller plants were sprayed. Hundreds of thousands of trees have been killed. The spraying continues to this day to kill keiki mangroves.

In all other parts of the world, and even by many in Hawaii, mangroves are appreciated for the beneficial role they play in shoreline ecosystems – protection from tsunamis and storm surge, prevention of siltation of coral reefs, nursery habitats for fish, absorption of pollution from various sources, nutrient cycling, and other resource values.

Facts that have surfaced:

Malama o Puna has received $5,000 from Monsanto for “public education”. Of that, $500 was used to encourage the public to pull mangrove keikis. Monsanto also donated poison for the eradication at Wai Opae. Chemical giant BASF also donated poison.

There was no environmental assessment for this eradication project.

There were no studies on the impact of mangrove poisoning and eradication on the endangered species that are known to use those areas.

The DLNR expected the dead, poisoned trees would have been removed from the area and not left to become storm wrack.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), which funded the eradication at Wai Opae, also expected the dead trees would have been removed from the area.

Fish counts at Wai Opae were studied between 2008 and 2010 by the US Forest Service, with money from Malama o Puna, and found that the year after Wai Opae was poisoned the fish counts dropped dramatically, including severely reduced baby fish numbers. Numbers seem to have recovered two years after poisoning, (and after this lawsuit began), but this needs to be confirmed with further studies, which may not happen for lack of funding.

Native species of fish suffered more from the eradication than exotic fish.
Mangroves provide needed shade for fish nurseries of native and exotic species.

The water quality at Wai Opae changed after the poisoning, becoming warmer, more acidic, and with less dissolved oxygen.

A massive algal bloom covering the tidepool bottom and coral resulted from the eradication at Wai Opae.

Malama o Puna continued the poisoning at the other sites despite the findings of these impacts at Wai Opae.

Poisoning of about half an acre of mangroves at Honokohau Harbor was planned by Malama o Puna but resisted by the National Park Service, which oversees that area and is concerned about the impacts of using poisons on the aquatic environment. As a result, mangroves will not be poisoned there.

The original Circuit Court judge handling the case, the Honorable Judge Hara, refused to grant a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to stop the poisoning.

Subsequently, however, it was revealed that Judge Hara's family owns the land at Wai Opae with mangroves, and the family had approved the eradication. Once this information came to light, Judge Hara recused himself from the case for conflict of interest.

The DLNR and HTA have settled. The remaining defendants are the County of Hawaii and Malama o Puna and the Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC). BIISC is in default.

The poisoning continues. And so does the lawsuit. Trial date is set for July 25, 2011.

Possibly as a result of this lawsuit, the DLNR is proposing changes to its Administration Rules 13-5 which would allow the use of poison, biocontrol, and power tools on any number of acres of shoreline or conservation lands to kill virtually any species anyone considers “invasive”, including native species.

It looks like Monsanto stock may go up soon, as poisoning and leaving things to rot in place becomes the new, cheap method of environmental control, tested on our shoreline by Monsanto's grant recipient, Malama o Puna.

For those who wish to comment on the proposed rule changes to HAR 13-5, here is the hearing schedule:

  • January 31, 2011 Kaunakakai, Molokai: Mitchell Pauole Center, 90 Ainoa St.
  • February 1, 2011 Lihue, Kauai: LihueLibrary, 4344 Hardy St.
  • February 7, 2011 Kona, Hawaii: Mayor's Conf. Room, 75-5706 Kuakini Hwy, Rm 103
  • February 9, 2011 Honolulu, Oahu: Kalanimoku Bldg., 1151 Punchbowl St., Rm 132

Or write your comments and send to:

William J. Alia, Jr. Chairman
Department of Land and Natural Resources
Samuel Lemmo, Administrator
Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands
Kalanimoku Bldg.
1151 Punchbowl St.
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

Short URL: http://www.hawaiireporter.com/?p=29646

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