HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state's Division of Forestry and Wildlife is considering amending rules that would make it illegal to transport non-native wildlife from one island to another. But some amendments that would toughen rules regarding endangered and threatened species are drawing concern from Native Hawaiians.
In 2009, a pilot made the news for illegally flying four axis deer from Maui to the Big Island to try to establish a deer population there. But he was prosecuted under federal law. The state wants to amend the rules regarding what's defined as introduced wildlife -- any species that are not natives to Hawaii.
"Some examples are the mongoose, little fire ant, coqui frog," said the division's Jason Misaki. "This rule would prohibit anyone from transporting them or releasing them into the wild."
For example, the mongoose is not established on Kauai or Lanai. As for the coqui frog, if someone were to take one from Hilo to Oahu and then let it loose, "It would be against the law," said Misaki.
It's not just mongooses and coqui frogs. "We do have a list, but a lot of it is just anything that's non-native, has detrimental effect on the environment," said Misaki. "So that's really what the law is going for. We don't have any specific creatures in mind, any specific species in mind. But anything that would do harm is what's covered under the law."
Most people at the public hearing in Honolulu Thursday supported the amendments when it came to prohibiting the spread of non-native species. One of them was Brent Wilson of Manoa, who wanted to know if the amendments would cover persons and businesses. "I believe there was a large bird sanctuary in the back of that valley at one time. And even until today, we have the relatives of all those birds who live back there." Wilson wanted assurances that businesses could also be held liable for the spread of invasive species.
Others, particularly some Native Hawaiians at the hearing, expressed concern on other amendments that would toughen rules against transporting or disturbing any endangered and threatened wildlife in the state. "The amendments are somewhat copious and unclear on where Native Hawaiian gathering rights are included," Juanita Kawamoto told the hearing.
There were others who said the proposed amendments try to cover too much and are too complicated. "I'm not stupid," said Lela Hubbard. "I have a college degree. And yet this confuses me. It confuses many other people who sincerely care about our land and our fauna."
Earlier hearings were held on all the other neighbor islands except Kauai, where a hearing is scheduled Friday night.