Hawaii News

$2.5 million in federal money headed for invasive species prevention in Hawai‘i

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture will award over $2.5 million to Hawaiʻi’s Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, U.S. congressmembers Ed Case (HI-01) and Jill Tokuda (HI-02) announced last Friday.

“Invasive species pose an especially grave threat to Hawai‘i’s unique ecosystems,
natural resources and agricultural communities because of its unique geography,” said
Rep. Case in a joint statement with Tokuda. “Hawai‘i is the most isolated island chain and one of the most ecologically diverse places in the world. A 2014 survey identified 9,975 endemic species in Hawai‘i. Tragically, due to invasive species, Hawai‘i has become the endangered species and extinction capital of the world. We currently have 503 species listed as endangered, more than any other state and almost half of the total endangered species nationwide.”

Coffee Berry Borer was first confirmed on Kaua‘i in September 2020. Photo Courtesy: HDOA (Hawai‘i State Department of Agriculture)

“I have walked through farms devastated by infestation and disease. I’ve talked with
farmers struggling to keep their family farms going. This funding from the USDA comes
at a crucial time for Hawaiʻiʻs ecological system which has been increasingly threatened
by invasive species,” said Rep. Tokuda. “We are on the front lines of a climate crisis
that has given rise to widespread infestations, and our producers are left with ruined
crops and spending their hard earned money fighting these pests. They need support
from the federal government, and I’m dedicated to making sure that Hawaiʻi receives its
fair share of resources in future years to protect our precious crops.”

The funding – delivered through the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – comes at a time when Kona Coffee farmers were devastated last year by the combination of a drought, an infestation of the Coffee Berry Borer beetle and the coffee leaf rust fungus.


Funding is focused on the prevention of invasive species from entering the islands and
for the prevention and mitigation of fruit fly impacts. Specific projects include:

  • Hawai‘i Detector Dog Program;
  • Molecular diagnostic catalog for tracking invasive noctuid moth introductions in Hawai‘i;
  • Integrative identification methods for Bactrocera fruit flies;
  • Developing molecular diagnostic tools to determine strain and mating status of fruit fly incursions;
  • Identification of Oriental Fruit Fly Larvae & Trap Captures;
  • Field testing of bait stations containing a fungal pathogen to control invasive fruit flies;
  • Development of protein food odor based chemical lure for female oriental fruit fly;
  • Optimizing Bacterial Probiotic Establishment for Medfly Sterile Insect Technique;
  • Developing an insecticide rotation to combat spinosad-resistance in three species of invasive Tephritidae fruit flies;
  • Management of hala scale insect in Hawaii, and survey of its potential biological control agents in its native range;
  • Enhanced mitigation and rapid response to introduced snails, earthworms, and flatworms in Hawai‘i;
  • Systems Approach for the management of Coffee Berry Borer in Hawaii and Puerto Rico with emphasis on biological control.

“Our year-round growing cycle produces some of the highest quality crops in the world,
from sugar and pineapple to cattle and specialty crops like fruit and cut flowers. Hawaiʻi’s unique crops are also more susceptible to invasive species and have no natural defenses to combat the threats. This is why we are united in fighting to secure as much funding to support Hawaiʻi’s plants and agriculture resources as possible,” said Case and Tokuda.


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