Merrie Monarch Travelers Reminded of ‘Ōhi‘a Quarantine
Travelers attending the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival this week are being reminded about quarantine restrictions on the transport of ʻōhiʻa from Hawaiʻi Island due to a serious plant disease called Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death or ROD, which is devastating the native forests on that island.
The quarantine restricts the movement of ʻōhiʻa plants and plant parts, including flowers, leaves, seeds, stems, twigs, cuttings, untreated wood, logs, mulch, greenwaste and frass (sawdust from boring insects) and any soil from Hawaiʻi Island. Transport of such items is only allowed with a permit issued by the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture.
“With the spread of rapid ʻōhiʻa death on Hawaiʻi Island, it is even more critical that ʻōhiʻa not be taken off the island,” said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chairperson of the Hawaiʻi Board of Agriculture. “State agricultural inspectors are setting up additional inspection stations at airports in Hilo and Kona to remind travelers about the ʻōhiʻa quarantine.”
HDOA’s Plant Quarantine Branch will be sending crews of inspectors from Honolulu to Hilo International Airport and Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole to boost inspection capacity near the end of the Merrie Monarch Festival, which runs from April 21st to the 27th. Special inspection stations will be set up at the airports where passengers may turn in any ʻōhiʻa material before boarding flights. Plant Quarantine offices in Kona and Hilo will also be accepting ʻōhiʻa material for proper handling.
The Hawaiʻi Board of Agriculture issued the emergency quarantine in August 2015 to stop the spread of the plant fungus from Hawaiʻi Island to other islands. Any person who violates the quarantine rule may be charged with a misdemeanor and fined not less than $100 with a maximum fine of $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 an ʻōhiʻa quarantine informational flyer that explains the quarantine and what travelers cannot transport off of Hawaiʻi Island. Information is also available on the department’s website at: http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/blog/main/reportingohiawilt/
The Merrie Monarch Festival draws dozens of hula hālau and hundreds of spectators to Hawaiʻi Island. It is important to note that the very act of harvesting ʻōhiʻa may spread the disease as spores may be carried in soil and by harvesting tools, 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 ʻōhiʻa material.
ROD was first noticed in 2010 in Puna. In 2014, the fungus was initially identified as Ceratocystis fimbriata by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Daniel K. Inouye Agricultural Research Service. Recent research has reclassified Ceratocystis fimbriata into two distinct species that are new to science, Ceratocystis lukuʻōhiʻa and Ceratocystis huliʻōhiʻa.
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. In 2018, aerial surveys estimated ROD has infected about 135,000 acres around Hawaiʻi Island. In 2018, the disease was also detected in a few areas on Kauai, but 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 inspection information may contact HDOA’s Plant Quarantine offices:
Hilo – (808) 971-9393 Honolulu – (808) 837-8413 Kauai – (808) 241-7135
Kona – (808) 326-1077 Maui – (808) 872-3848