Merrie Monarch Travelers Again Reminded of Ohia Quarantine

Posted on Mar 25, 2024 in Main

March 25, 2024

 Movement of ‘Ōhi‘a from Hawai‘i Island is Restricted

HONOLULU – The Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) is reminding travelers attending the Merrie Monarch Festival this week that quarantine restrictions remain on the transport of ʻōhiʻa from Hawai`i Island due to the fungal plant disease, rapid ʻōhiʻa death (ROD), which is devastating to native forests. The Merrie Monarch Festival begins in Hilo on March 31 and ends April 6.

The quarantine has been in place since 2015, and restricts the movement of ʻōhiʻa plants and plant parts, including flowers, leaves, seeds, stems, twigs, cuttings, untreated wood, logs, mulch, greenwaste and frass (sawdust from boring insects) and any soil from Hawai`i Island. Transport of such items is only allowed with a permit issued by the HDOA Plant Quarantine Branch (PQB).

PQB inspectors will be stationed at airports in Hilo and Kona to collect any ʻōhiʻa material which will be respectfully returned to the native forests on Hawai‘i Island. During last year’s Merrie Monarch travel period, PQB inspectors intercepted 31 lei poʻo (head lei) in Hilo and 12 lei poʻo in Kona.

“It’s important for the public to know, that although ʻōhiʻa may be taken to Hawai‘i Island from other islands, ʻōhiʻa may not be taken out of Hawai‘i Island no matter where it originated,” said Sharon Hurd, chairperson of the Hawai‘i Board of Agriculture.

“We appreciate everyone’s cooperation in obeying the quarantine and protecting our native forests,” added Hurd. “It takes all of us to protect Hawai‘i.”

A travel alert flyer has been posted on the HDOA website at:

The Hawaiʻi Board of Agriculture issued an emergency quarantine in August 2015 to stop the spread of the plant fungus from Hawaiʻi Island to other islands. A permanent quarantine rule was established in 2016. Any person who violates the quarantine rule may be charged with a misdemeanor and fined not less than $100 with a maximum fine of $10,000. For a second offense committed within five years of a prior conviction under this rule, the person or organization shall be fined not less than $500 and not more than $25,000.

The Merrie Monarch Festival draws dozens of hula hālau and hundreds of spectators to Hawai‘i Island. It is important to note that the very act of harvesting ʻōhiʻa may spread the disease, as spores may be carried in soil and by harvesting tools, vehicles, shoes and clothing to uninfected areas.

Multi-agency ROD working groups have been meeting with Native Hawaiian groups, the Merrie Monarch organization and other community groups to provide advice and guidance on the handling of ʻōhiʻa material.

ROD was first noticed in 2010 in Puna. In 2014, the fungus was initially identified as Ceratocystis fimbriata by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Daniel K. Inouye Agricultural Research Service. Recent research has reclassified Ceratocystis fimbriata into two distinct species that are new to science, Ceratocystis lukuohia and Ceratocystis huliohia. It is estimated that at least one million ʻōhiʻa trees have been killed by ROD just on Hawai‘i Island alone.

The disease was detected on Kauaʻi in 2018 and on O‘ahu in 2019. Also in 2019, one ʻōhiʻa tree on Maui was infected and destroyed and ROD has not been detected on the island since. It is not known how or where the disease entered the state.

Travelers seeking more inspection information may contact HDOA’s Plant Quarantine offices:

Hilo – (808) 961-9393                        Honolulu – (808) 837-8413
Kona – (808) 326-1077                      Maui – (808) 872-3848

Kauaʻi – (808) 241-7135

More information on ROD may be found at:

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Hilo International Airport inspection after Merrie Monarch 2023