State officials' message to Merrie Monarch Festival goers: Don't take the Ohia

Published: Mar. 29, 2018 at 10:56 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 30, 2018 at 6:01 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As Rapid Ohia Death continues to ravage thousands of ares of cherished trees across the state, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture is sending a message to Big Island visitors: Don't take the Ohia.

In just a few days, hula fans from around the world will converge on Hawaii Island for the 55th annual Merrie Monarch Hula Festival.

The Ohia Lehua blossom is popular among lei and adornment at the event, but the species is under attack.

The DOA says the Rapid Ohia Death fungus has killed 135,000 acres on the island, but has not been found on any other island.

Officials fear festival goers who harvest parts of the plant – anything from seeds to the blossom and even the bark – will spread the wind-blown disease.

"We ask that everyone be mindful of the quarantine restrictions," Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture said. "So far, we have been able to prevent the spread of the disease to other islands and continued vigilance is essential."

Native Hawaiian groups and festival organizers have been working closely with ROD mitigation teams leading up to the event to ensure Ohia material is properly handled.

Restrictions on transporting Ohia inter-island have been in place. Travelers are advised to not take the plant. Special inspection stations at the Hilo airport will be set up for Ohia quarantine.

Travelers seeking more inspection information may contact HDOA's Plant Quarantine offices at the following numbers, or click here:

Hilo – (808) 974-4141                        Honolulu – (808) 837-8413               Kauai – (808) 241-7135
Kona – (808) 326-1077                      Maui – (808) 872-3848

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