HANALEI VALLEY — Farm hands at the W.T. Haraguchi Farms in Hanalei spend 20 to
25 hours a week trying to eradicate apple snails from just one acre of taro
land. So far, the snails are winning, reproducing like crazy and munching their
way through the rich, poi-producing plants.
But farm president Rodney
Haraguchi may have hit on a solution. He'll harvest the juicy buggers, cook
them and sell them locally.
He's tried everything else.
The apple snail
first appeared in Haraguchi's taro fields in February of 1998.
is a major pest, present in at least 48 of the 50 lo'i (fields), eating every
part of the taro plant it can sink its teeth into.
Haraguchi said he has
tried everything short of introduction of the snail's known predators
(alligators and Cayuga duck) to try to control or eliminate the
Inmates from the Kaua'i Community Correctional Center, traps,
screens, even electric shock, couldn't stop the spread of the snail, a
voracious eater that needs no mate to reproduce, and reproduces by the millions
The snail, accidentally released on Kaua'i several years ago
from Maui, inhabits the island from Kekaha to Wainiha, devouring just about
every type of flora in its path.
Haraguchi yesterday won approval from the
Kaua'i Planning Commission to establish a commercial kitchen in the Haraguchi
home. The kitchen will be used to cook apple snails, which will be marketed to
local stores, restaurants and individuals for human consumption.
credits his wife Karol with the idea of harvesting the snails, which are
considered a delicacy by some.
His primary goal is to totally eradicate the
snails from his fields. But if it can be done by turning lemons into lemonade,
so much the better.
Haraguchi isn't recommending that taro farmers who have
avoided the pests introduce them for harvesting.
The damage the snails do
to the taro plants isn't worth it, he said.
There is an urgent need to
control the snails at Haraguchi Farms, Karol Haraguchi said, because in one
year the snail population has multiplied into literally millions of the
Harvesting instead of the current practice of crushing live
snails under heels has been effective in reducing snail populations in taro
farms on Maui. Also on Maui, some taro farms have gone out of business because
of the snail, said Bill Spitz, agricultural expert with the county Office of
So damaging is the pest that the Haraguchis notice
plants in the middle of fields toppling over because of the damage done by the
snails, which Rodney Haraguchi says eat 24 hours a day.
And, as they have
razor-sharp body parts, the snails (some reaching the size of baseballs) pose
health and safety threats to farmers, Karol Haraguchi commented.
need two snails to multiply," said Dr. Ramon de la Pena, Planning Commission
chair and an expert in plants and their pests.
He amended a condition
attached to the commission's approval of use and Class IV zoning permits to
allow other farmers on the island to bring their snails to the Haraguchi
kitchen for cooking.
The state Department of Agriculture does not allow
transportation of live snails.
In other action, the Planning Commission
approved permits necessary for the county to proceed with construction plans
designed to protect Ho'one Road along Po'ipu Beach, and to allow for the
restoration of Brennecke Beach.
The commission also approved permits
necessary for construction of a 100,000-gallon water tank to serve an
agricultural subdivision near Kilauea.
COCO PALMS HEARING DELAYED: A
hearing on permits for reconstruction of the Coco Palms Hotel was postponed
when it was determined that public notification requirements had not been met.
The hearing has been rescheduled for the commission's next meeting, Thursday,
Also deferred to the Jan. 13 meeting was action on permits needed
for the Hanalei Dolphin restaurant to allow outdoor seating for meal service on
the grounds immediately east of the restaurant.
The state Department of
Health asked for a deferral on its request for permits needed to establish a
residential group home for emotionally disturbed children on the campus of
Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital.