HONOLULU — When it comes to the fight against invasive plants and animals, the island of Kaua‘i is turning heads.
For the first time, Hawai‘i is participating in National Invasive Species Awareness Week, which continues through Sunday.
On Monday, Gov. Neil Abercrombie kicked off Hawai‘i Invasive Species Awareness Week with a proclamation in the Capitol Auditorium in Honolulu. Immediately following, the Hawai‘i Invasive Species Council Awards Ceremony honored individuals, agencies, organizations and businesses around the state that have made a difference in protecting Hawai‘i from invasive species.
Kaua‘i Reps. Dee Morikawa, Jimmy Tokioka and Derek Kawakami presented awards to the Kaua‘i Invasive Species Committee and Craig Kaneshige of the Department of Agriculture.
KISC — represented by Joe Kona and Keren Gunderson — brought home the Greatest Hit of 2012 Award for its work with mongooses and coqui frogs on Kaua‘i.
Kaneshige was honored with the Kaua‘i MVP Award for his tireless, on-the-ground dedication to detect and respond to pests that could change the face of the island.
Rep. Kawakami described the award winners as “unsung heroes.”
“The work that the KISC does on Kaua‘i is phenomenal,” he said. “They are the front line of defense … They’re out there every day in extreme conditions.”
The KISC is a voluntary partnership of government, private and nonprofit organizations, and individuals working to prevent, control or eliminate invasive plant and animals species on Kaua‘i.
In 2012, working with the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Kaua‘i Lagoons Marriott, KISC staff members successfully captured the first two live mongooses — an animal suspected of living on Kaua‘i for several decades, according to the HISAW blog. The captures highlighted the need for further protection of Kaua‘i’s endangered seabird populations.
Young Brothers, Ltd., which received the 2013 Business Leader Award, assisted in capturing the second mongoose near Nawiliwili Harbor.
Last year, KISC also declared Kaua‘i coqui-free, following the monitoring of a multi-year eradication effort of the frogs near Lawa‘i, in cooperation with the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture.
“This is a real honor,” said Gundersen, the KISC project manager. “Our crew works so hard every day, and they have committed a lot of time and energy on these two particular pest species.”
As for Kaua‘i MVP Kaneshige, his job description speaks for itself, according to Rep. Morikawa.
“He is the only Department of Agriculture staff on Kaua‘i,” she said. “He covers the whole island. Because of that, the scope of his responsibility is huge.”
Kaneshige conducts surveys for invasive insects and other agricultural pests, collaborates with the Hawai‘i Ant Lab and KISC on fire ant control and detection and works to eradicate plant pest species, including miconia, long thorn kiawe and Moluccan raspberry. He is a member in the Kaua‘i Conservation Alliance and actively interacts with a number of conservation groups, according to the blog.
“Craig’s work in early detection of plants, insects and pathogens, although hard to measure, will help ease the impacts that invasive species have on agriculture and the biodiversity of Kaua‘i’s natural areas,” the blog states.
Morikawa described the awards given to Kaneshige and the KISC as a “big deal” for Kaua‘i.
“It’s unreal what they do,” she said. “They are doing a lot with so little.”
Kawakami added that it is because of these individuals’ “relentless” work that the island of Kaua‘i is “still pretty pristine, as far as invasive species coming in.”
“I tip my hat off to them,” he said. “The work continues, because we are constantly under threat.”
Phone calls to Kaneshige were not returned by press time.
For more information about Hawai‘i Invasive Species Awareness Week and a complete list of 2013 HISC award winners, visit hisaw2013.blogspot.com.
• Chris D’Angelo, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.