Scientists: Mangroves threaten environment

by John Burnett
Tribune-Herald Staff Writer

About 60 people attended a forum on controversial red mangrove eradication Tuesday night at Pahoa Community Center.

The meeting was an effort by the Hawaii County mayor’s office to let all sides sound off on the eradication. The county, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Big Island Invasive Species Council and the environmental group Malama O Puna are among those being sued by Puna resident Sydney Ross Singer over the application of herbicide to mangroves at Wai ‘Opae Marine Life Conservation District in Kapoho, Pohoiki and Onekahakaha Beach Park in Keaukaha. Also named in the suit is the Hawaii Tourism Authority, which provided Malama O Puna a $40,000 grant to eradicate the mangroves.

Malama O Puna’s website calls the species “aggressive aliens that replace coral pool and other coastal habitats, shading out coral, dropping large amounts of organic matter, and resulting in muck-filled pools with little diversity.”

Singer’s lawsuit contends that that the removal of mangroves will have the opposite effect, harm both native and exotic fish, reduce shoreline protection from storm surge and tsunamis, and cause “irrevocable harm to the environment.”

The suit is still in litigation.