Hawaii governor backs biocontrol to fight invasive species

December 12, 2018

KAIILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — Hawaii Gov. David Ige has proposed building a $35 million regional biocontrol facility to research ways to control invasive species that threaten the state’s economy and natural environment.

Ige advocated for a biocontrol facility while addressing the Western Governors Association at its meeting Monday on the Big Island.

Biocontrol is the practice of introducing a non-native predator to curb a destructive invasive species.

While results have been mixed, more than 200 non-native species have been intentionally introduced in Hawaii to control pests over the last century, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported . In one successful example, scientists introduce a Tanzanian wasp about a decade ago to control invasive gall wasps that were destroying native wiliwili trees. The trees began recovering after the predator wasps were introduced.

Ige said this practice could help move away from the use of chemicals to control pests.

“Oftentimes it is difficult to spray and apply chemicals, especially where we have residents and the general population,” Ige said. “We believe that biocontrol can be an effective strategy to manage invasive species, and that would be the preferred option if we can find biocontrols that do not create other unintended consequences that would be more detrimental than the invasive species themselves.”

The proposed facility would be equipped with diagnostic labs and areas for testing plants and insects. The facility would also serve western states and Pacific territories.

Ige said he hopes that setting a regional scope on the facility will help attract federal support.

“We do know that we want to become a center for research and development in the management of invasive species in general,” Ige said.