The Big Stink: US Fish and Wildlife Halt Illegal Mangrove Poisoning on Hawaii’s Big Island

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HILO- There’s a new smell in the air at the popular Pohoiki surfing and swimming beach, at Isaac Hale Beach Park on the Puna coast. It’s the stench of rotting mangroves, recent victims of illegal poisoning by the group Malama o Puna.

The 2-3 acre mangrove forest at Pohoiki, along with other small mangrove habitats on the Big Island, have been the subject of an herbicide experiment designed to study the cost effectiveness of eradicating mangroves by poisoning them and leaving them to rot, as opposed to the more expensive method of hand removal.


The experiment was funded by the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the US Fish and Wildlife. All the mangroves on the Big Island were to be poisoned and eradicated. Without public comment or awareness of the plan, Malama o Puna stealthily attacked mangroves throughout the Big Island. They were half way through poisoning Pohoiki’s mangroves when citizens caught wind of the project and began to make a stink.

Complaints from the Good Shepherd Foundation and the ad hoc group Save the Mangroves caused Fish and Wildlife to stop the work. There had been no environmental assessment (EA) or review by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for this project, making this an illegal poisoning of our shoreline conservation land. It may also be a violation of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act.

According to Hawaii Revised Statute (HRS) 343, an EA is required when state or county funds or land is used, and when the proposed action is on conservation or shoreline land. An EA would also be required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Since this also involved Federal money, there should have been both a Federal as well as a state EA.

Armed with herbicide donated by chemical giants BASF and Monsanto, Malama o Puna was given a nod and a wink and a green light from its “partners” at the Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC) to go ahead with the poisoning.

BIISC is a cartel of government and private exterminators. It includes individuals at the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife, US Geologic Survey, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaii Department of Agriculture, University of Hawaii CTAHR, Hawaii County, the Nature Conservancy, Kamehameha Schools, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and Malama o Puna.

Malama o Puna received a grant from its partner, Fish and Wildlife, and an SMA minor permit from its partner, Hawaii County. It had its application license for using the herbicide granted by its partner, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture. And the Department of Land and Natural Resources, another partner, looked the other way as the conservation shoreline it was supposed to protect was poisoned.

No public comments were taken, since an SMA minor permit does not require public notification. Clearly, BIISC cartel members did not want anyone getting wise to what was happening.

There was a time when environmentalists fought chemical companies to prevent shorelines from being polluted with poisons. Now, “environmentalists” partner with chemical companies to poison the shorelines. And the government agencies that should protect us from this are also partners, destroying the checks and balances that are needed for protecting the environment.

Mangroves are appreciated worldwide for their benefits of shorelines protection, support of coral reefs, water purification services, and habitat creation for small fish and other marine life. Hawaii’s mangroves were brought over 100 years ago to protect the shoreline, and studies have shown they increase local species richness and biodiversity.

Now, however, the poisoned and rotting mangroves are a source of pollution and stench, creating a public health and environmental hazard. Bathers at Pohoiki will be at risk from this pollution, which is a liability for the state and Federal agencies that partnered in the project, as well as for Malama o Puna.

Something is rotten in Hawaii, and it’s not just the mangroves.

‘Sydney Ross Singer is the Director of the Good Shepherd Foundation. Reach him at’