Travelers attending the Merrie Monarch Festival later this week are being alerted to quarantine restrictions on the transport of ohia from Hawaii Island due to a serious plant disease called rapid ohia death (ROD), also known as ohia wilt, which is devastating the native forests on that island.
The quarantine restricts the movement of ohia plants and plant parts, including flowers, leaves, seeds, stems, twigs, cuttings, untreated wood, logs, mulch greenwaste and frass (sawdust from boring beetles) and any soil from Hawaii Island. Transport of such items is only allowed with a permit issued by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA).
“Ohia is one of the most important trees in our native forests and has such cultural significance,” said Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture. “Researchers are working hard to find methods to stop ROD and we ask that everyone obey the quarantine and assist in containing the spread of the disease to other islands.”
The Hawaii Board of Agriculture issued the emergency quarantine in August of 2015 to stop the spread of the plant fungus from Hawaii Island to other islands. Any person who violates the quarantine rule may be charged with a misdemeanor and fined not less than $100. The maximum fine is $10,000. For a second offense committed within five years of a prior conviction under this rule, the person or organization shall be fined not less than $500 and not more than $25,000.
HDOA Plant Quarantine inspectors have printed a travel alert that is available at airports statewide. The card explains the quarantine and what travelers should and should not do. The information is also available on the department’s website at: http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/blog/main/reportingohiawilt/
The Merrie Monarch Festival runs from March 27 to April 2 with dozens of hula halau and hundreds of spectators traveling to and from Hawaii Island. It is important to note that the very act of harvesting ohia may spread the disease as spores may be carried in soil and by vehicles, shoes and clothing to uninfected areas.
Multi-agency ROD working groups have been meeting with Native Hawaiian groups, the Merrie Monarch organization and other community groups to provide advice and guidance on the handling of ohia material.
ROD was first noticed in 2010 in Puna. In 2014, the fungus was identified as Ceratocystis fimbriata by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Daniel K. Inouye Agricultural Research Service. In 2014, it was estimated that the disease covered approximately 6,000 acres from Kalapana to Hilo and exhibited tree mortality rates of more than 50 percent. Currently, it is estimated to infect about 34,000 acres. So far, the disease has not been found on other islands. It is not known how the disease entered the state or where it came from.
Travelers seeking more ohia inspection information may contact HDOA’s Plant Quarantine offices:
Hilo – (808) 974-4141
Kona – (808) 326-1077
Honolulu – (808) 837-8413
Maui – (808) 872-3848
Kauai – (808) 241-7135
More information on ROD may be found at:
HDOA website: http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/blog/main/reportingohiawilt/
UH-College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources website: http://www2.ctahr.hawaii.edu/forestry/disease/ohia_wilt.html