Hawaii lawmakers vote to support coqui frog eradication - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii lawmakers vote to support coqui frog eradication

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Duane Okamoto Duane Okamoto
Cliff Tsuji Cliff Tsuji

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some don't mind the sound of coqui frogs, but their shrill mating call drives others up the wall.

"Anyone who has heard a coqui frog can appreciate the disruption it causes to people's lives," Hawaii state Department of Agriculture deputy director Duane Okamoto said.

Last week a Department of Agriculture inspector used a plastic tube to catch a coqui in Manoa. But Maui and the Big Island have been hit hardest by coqui colonies.

"On the Big Island in Hilo we have the banyan drive area. It's infested," said Rep. Cliff Tsuji, D-3rd (South Hilo, Puna, Keaau).

Lawmakers want to give counties the option of using dollars from their share of the hotel room tax to eradicate coqui.

Right now coqui coffers are empty.

"As far as appropriating for coqui frog a few years ago that was $2 million dollars. That went directly for Big Island usage. It's gone," Tsuji said.

Starting in May, budget cutbacks will force Hawaii county to cease spraying areas to control coqui. People can use the equipment free of charge but will have to pay for the spray and any equipment repairs.

"Because there's no natural enemy unless we actively take a step on controlling them they're going to increase in numbers," Okamoto said.

"One DOA official has mentioned the negative economic impact is into the billions of dollars," Tsuji said.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources supports coqui control but stops short of endorsing the idea of using tourist taxes to fight a single invasive species.

In the case of the coqui, the tiny frog has a foothold in Hawaii and it's not letting go.

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