Friday, January 9, 2009

Superferry in the Garden

Love it or hate it, one thing is certain about the Superferry: It spreads invasive species. That has always been obvious to me, and many nursery owners, prior to the Superferry launch, even though operations began without a draft environmental impact statement. Now that the draft EIS has finally been made available, what’s it all mean? Well, it could possibly mean that all those tax dollars were spent on building up something that may just prove too costly to operate anyway. It could fizzle out, investors pack up, and we would get stuck with the bill and a further degraded, shrinking native environment.

Gardeners take note: The gorgeous non-native Mtssa. Dark Star 'Orchidworks' above is not an invasive species. However, imported potted ornamental plants, probably palms, are how coqui frogs and little fire ants first hitchhiked to Hawai'i, and undoubtedly it became easier to spread these invasive species via potted plants transported interisland through the Superferry.

It takes some doing to smuggle a potted plant aboard an interisland airline – not as easy as macadmia-nut shortbread cookies. By law, the plant has to be inspected; if it passes, it gets a sticker. Federal inspectors from the USDA are usually stationed at airline terminals and check only plant material going on flights between the mainland or abroad, whereas the Hawaii state Dept. of Agriculture is a separate office and inspects only items going interisland.

Supposedly, invasive plants aren’t allowed on the Superferry, and any plant going onboard has to be inspected by the Hawaii DOA. What I’d like to know is, who is monitoring the Superferry dock now, and how thorough are they really?

On an airline, potted plants are considered baggage; logistically, you’re limited to transporting just a few pots. However, if, say, Mr. Plantfreak wanted to do some serious nursery shopping on a neighbor island he could load up a car, truck, or van with many more potted plants and drive right onto the Superferry with his booty, possibly for even less than what he’d have to pay a regular shipper. He doesn’t even have to be a certified grower.

Compost this: Does the DOA inspect every plant? Does Superferry check the back of every car, truck and van? Or does that just slow loading down way too much? A commercial entity, Superferry wants government agencies to be responsible for inspections and foot the bill for the measures to prevent the spread of invasives. As if there’s piles of money in the public coffers for such things. I don’t know about you, but that just makes an organic gardener like me ponder the inevitability of having to buy little fire ant poison.


MauiBrad said...

Excellent post Janice!

Aloha, Brad

Anonymous said...

Very timely and interesting piece. Thanks, Royce