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The Hawaii Tourism Authority is joining the state effort to fight Rapid ‘Ōhi’a Death, a disease that’s killed hundreds of thousands of Hawaii’s native ‘Ōhi’a trees, and it’s still spreading. HI Now host Jobeth Devera sat down with Ambyr Mokiao-Lee, the statewide outreach coordinator with the University of Hawaii at Manoa, to talk about the serious issue.
Rapid ‘Ōhi’a Death is a new disease to Hawaii and science. Healthy trees appear to die within a few days to a few weeks, which is how the disease got its name. It’s made up of two different species of fungus and has affected 135,000 acres on Hawaii Island. Confirmed cases have been found in the following locations: east from Kalapana to Hilo, between Hilo and Volcano, south from Volcano to Naʻalehu and Naʻalehu to Kona, as far north as Kohala.
The less aggressive species causing the symptoms of Rapid ‘Ōhi’a Death was detected on Kauai in May 2018. Mokiao-Lee explains that no one knows how the disease reached Kauai, and says its part of their ongoing research. She emphasizes that the sanitation of gear and shoes is one of the utmost importance.
In 2015, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture created a quarantine rule that prohibits the movement of ‘Ōhi’a off of Hawaii Island. The things prohibited are ‘Ōhi’a plants, plant parts, soil, wood, and lei or haku with ‘Ōhi’a. With the upcoming Merrie Monarch Festival, this quarantine rule becomes very relevant. At rapidohiadeath.org, people can find places to turn in these items so that they can be safely returned to the forest. There are also kiosks at the airports there to collect lei material.
Help prevent spreading Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death by practicing these five things:
1. Avoid injuring ʻōhiʻa.
2. Don’t move ʻōhiʻa wood or ʻōhiʻa parts.
3. Don’t transport ʻōhiʻa inter-island.
4. Clean gear and tools, including shoes and clothes, before and after entering forests.
5. Wash the tires and undercarriage of your vehicle to remove all soil or mud.