Hawaii Unites is speaking up for the ‘āina and demanding an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the State of Hawaii's biopesticide mosquito release on Maui.
Update 5/8/23: Hawaii Unites has filed a case against the State of Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources and Department of Land and Natural Resources for failing to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the BioPesticide Mosquito Experiment. We’re continuing to raise funds towards legal fees and anticipate that at least $30,000 will be needed for the first phase of litigation.
The State of Hawaii and its multi-agency partnership Birds, Not Mosquitoes plan to release up to 775,992,000 biopesticide lab-reared Wolbachia bacteria-infected mosquitoes per week on Maui. This mosquito experiment is an effort to save endangered native birds from avian malaria. Federal documentation confirms that the outcome is unknown and that this plan may not even work for its intended purpose. This specific population control technique has NEVER been done in the state of Hawaii.
This experiment would continue for at least 20 years and could go on indefinitely until the state finds another solution. The primary release method would be by drones, with additional releases by helicopter and ground methods. Mosquitoes would be released throughout the 64,666-acre project area at up to 134 drone flights per week, causing viewscape impacts and noise disturbances to forest bird breeding and nesting. The project would have significant environmental consequences, including impacts to the untrammeled, natural qualities of the wilderness character.
Treatments of up to 6,000 mosquitoes per acre would occur up to twice per week – potentially over 40 BILLION invasive biopesticide mosquitoes released per year just on the island of Maui! These mosquitoes would be released in biodegradable packages that would litter the canopy and forest floor for as long as they remain in the environment.
The lab-reared mosquitoes will be infected with a different strain of Wolbachia bacteria, which could cause them to become more capable of spreading diseases like avian malaria and West Nile virus (bird and human). While state agencies and wildlife officials are hoping this novel strategy will prevent extinction of native birds, it may cause their extinction, and it could impact human health. Tropical disease expert Dr. Lorrin Pang (private citizen) has expressed concerns about horizontal transmission of the lab bacteria to wild mosquitoes and other insect vectors of disease, stating: “Hawaii has a bad history of invasive species entering and spreading unabated, including their spread of infectious diseases.” He asks, “How is this supposed to be self-contained?”
The mosquito species planned for use, Culex quinquefasciatus, has never been used for stand-alone Incompatible Insect Technique (IIT) field release. The 64,666-acre project area is over 89 times the size of the largest known IIT release area to date globally (724 acres using Aedes mosquitoes).
Scientific studies document the risks of horizontal transmission of the lab bacteria, increased pathogen infection, evolutionary events, population replacement, and accidental release of females (who bite and breed). Biopesticide mosquitoes for this project originate from Palmyra Atoll. Wolbachia bacteria for the project originates from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. At least one strain of Wolbachia planned for import in connection with the project does not exist on these islands. Once this plan starts, it is irreversible.
An Environmental Risk Assessment for this biopesticide has not been conducted by the EPA, and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture has applied for an EPA Emergency Exemption for use of the mosquitoes without going through regulatory safety processes. There are no documented biosecurity protocols for this project. There is no known pathogen screening of the lab mosquitoes. Male mosquitoes released can transmit bacteria and pathogens to female mosquitoes who could then spread disease to native birds, wildlife, and humans. The article cited by project partners asserting that released mosquitoes pose no risk to human health is based on unsound science that has been discredited by the EPA.
This plan is an experiment on our island home. There are serious risks, and the outcome is admittedly unknown. Who will take responsibility if something goes wrong – the federal government, the State of Hawaii, steering committee partners, private landowners? Adequate studies and research have not been conducted; and safer, less experimental alternatives have not been considered. Conflicts of interest have not been disclosed or addressed, and the state is rushing forward with this project without the consent of the people of these islands.
Public testimony has shown overwhelming opposition to these mosquito releases. We do not accept the Environmental Assessment’s Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). We’re calling for a halt to this project. The scope, risks, and experimental nature of the plan require detailed, comprehensive studies and documentation of the impacts to our native birds, wildlife, environment, and public health. We demand an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to our organization to help us in our efforts. Any amount you can contribute will strengthen our cause.
Mahalo to everyone for your commitment to protecting the ‘āina from this biopesticide experiment. We stand united in our love for these islands and our respect for the spiritual connection of the lands and the native birds.