POSTED: 23 APRIL 2004 - 11:30am HST

Kaua‘i's Crustacean Crisis

A typical commercial shrimp farm. This one in Arizona. No chance of infecting the Pacific Ocean here.

Ceatech shrimp virus may reach the open ocean
by Phil Hayworth on 22 April 2004 in The Garden IsIand News

The discovery of the white spot symptom virus at Ceatech USA, Inc.'s Kekaha shrimp farm this month has some here worried that the virus might spread to Kaua‘i's native crustaceans, ultimately harming the near-shore reef ecosystem.

The virus — which can decimate crustacean populations, but doesn't affect humans — had never before been detected in Hawai‘i.

Officials with the state Department of Agriculture ordered an immediate quarantine and, this week, Ceatech workers voluntarily began draining all 48 ponds into Kinikini Ditch, and burying 20 million dead shrimp.

But some believe that those eradication efforts might not be enough to stop the virus.

"From what I've seen, their remediation efforts are like putting lipstick on a corpse," said Don Heacock, Kaua‘i district aquatic biologist with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The problem, according to Dr. James Foppoli, the state's veterinarian, is that the virus lives in water, and Ceatech has been draining its effluent into Kinikini Ditch for years. Indeed, recent drainings mean those discharges have been at an all-time high and only stopped yesterday, he said.

The ditch runs into various streamlets and rivers and reaches the sea. Theoretically, the virus could take hold in Hawai‘i waters and harm native crustacean populations here and, ultimately, reef ecosystems, Heacock said. Ceatech officials have abided by all Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations during the draining period, Foppoli said.

Still, no one knows how long the shrimp — and the water — have been infected, Heacock said.
"We did find shrimp in the detention basins, and there's nothing to prevent the tiny shrimp from escaping into the ditch and out to sea," he said.

State biologists are sending Kekaha-area crustacean samples to the University of Arizona's testing facilities, and should know whether local crustaceans have been infected with the virus.
"We can't jump to conclusions until we've done more tests," Heacock said. "We don't even know if the virus happens here naturally."

If the virus is detected in Kaua‘i's native species, then tests will be done statewide to determine if species in other Hawaiian waters are infected. If the virus isn't detected elsewhere in Hawai‘i, "we'll have to look at Kekaha," Heacock said, suggesting that the infection could be traced back to Ceatech.

"The virus could potentially spread around the island and archipelago," Heacock said.

But Heacock strongly argues that Ceatech officials have done everything possible to control and destroy the virus. Meanwhile, residents and travelers in the area are getting a nose-full of rotting shrimp.

"It's beyond stink!" said Derek Pellin, a Lawa‘i resident and Kekaha-area surfer. "You just have to drive by there. It's unbelievable."

State scientists believe a bird might have eaten infected shrimp and spread the virus here with droppings.

"Every time you buy shrimp from the store, you're probably getting the white-spot virus," Heacock said. "Most shrimp from Asia are infected, but it's harmless to humans. Still, all you have to do is eat it. Human waste can carry the virus. Even just washing your hands could pass the virus."

Ceatech's operations are an important part of West Kaua‘i's economy, employing some 40 people. They run the largest aquafarm shrimp operation in the state, and have plans to expand their operations. But there are concerns that the company cannot survive a $2-million loss in revenue — the estimated cost of the virus to the company over the next few months.

"Our main concern is to get the Ceatech operation up and running," Foppoli said.

Ceatech leaders will have to make some changes, Heacock said. One of those modifications might include building oyster or seaweed ponds through which shrimp effluent might be circulated.
"It's called an ‘integrated system,' and cleans the water," Heacock said.

Ceatech leaders have no plans to use an integrated system, Heacock said, adding that their present troubles might force them to reconsider.

Business Editor Phil Hayworth may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or

IslandBreath Editor's Note:
This story is a good reason to keep the State
of Hawaii and the DLNR (Department of Land & Natural Resources) in charge of pumping Mana Plain water into the ditches leading to the ocean, and not let the PMRF take that function over. Unlike the PMRF the DLNR is charged with the wellfare of the people and environment of Hawaii. The PMRF is answerable only to the military.



POSTED: 23 MARCH 2004 9:00am HST

Kauai Blue Water Response Team

Aerial image of shore just west of the Kaumakani sugarmill

The Sierra Club's Blue Water Campaign is recruiting volunteers for their Kaua'i Blue Water Response Team, a rapid response volunteer network that would immediately respond to ocean pollution complaints from runoff pollution and mismanaged injection wells and cesspools. The O'ahu and Maui Blue Water Response Teams have been trained and have already been dispatched to investigate and document possible water quality violations.

Our coastal waters are threatened statewide by inappropriate or mismanaged development, often resulting in rivers of muddy runoff smothering our coral reefs, disturbing marine life, and turning our pristine blue waters brown.

The egregious violations on James Pflueger's property in Pila`a, Kauai in 2001 are just one of the examples of how mishandled developments can degrade Hawaii's waters and coral reefs. Similar muddy runoff events occurred at the Kaunala Development on O'ahu's North Shore in December 2003, at the Hokulia project on the Big Island in 2000, and at Palauea Bay, Maui where inappropirtae development polluted pristine AA waters in 2001.

By responding to and documenting possible Clean Water Act violations, the Blue Water Response Team will assist the Department of Health's Clean Water Branch and the counties, educate the public on how to comply with various environmental laws, and will ensure that negligent developers are held responsible for their actions.

Blue Water Response Team volunteers will be trained at no cost in the fundamentals of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, RCRA, EPCRA and other state and federal pollution control and planning laws.

Certified with this training, these volunteers will become the Blue Water Response Team and serve as the "eyes and ears" of communities and regulatory agencies to help assure proper land-use practices, identify illegal dumping grounds, and minimize polluted runoff. Training sessions will be held on O'ahu, Maui, Hawai'i, Kaua'i, Lana'i and Moloka'i, and all seriously interested people are welcome to attend.

The Kaua'i training session will be held on Sunday, March 28th 2004 from 9:00 am to 2:30pm in Lihue. For more details and to RSVP, contact Blue Water Campaign Coordinator, Laura Hokunani Edmunds on O'ahu at (808) 561-8800 or email



POSTED: 11 JANUARY 2004 - 4:00pm HST

The expected harvest of flotsam & jetsom: driftwood, kukui nuts, corks, sponge & netting

A Walk on Plastic Beach
by Linda Pascatore on 11 January 2004

Big surf was forecast for North and West facing shores of Kauai this weekend. As my husband and I consulted the tide calendar, we realized that a high high tide was due Sunday morning at 6 AM. It was a perfect time for a dawn trip to the Queen’s Pond area of Polihale State Park here on the West Side. We anticipated rosy morning light on Niihau, giant waves pounding in, and a pleasant shell-hunting walk on the beach.

We woke early, packed a thermos of coffee, and stopped for some doughnuts on the way out to Polihale. When we arrived we could hear the big surf from over the dunes. As we crested the dunes, the cliffs of Niihau were highlighted in pink light, and the sky full of interesting cloud formations illuminated by the rising sun. The big surf and high tide had come higher than we had ever seen it there, almost to the vegetation line on the dunes.

But when we looked at the beach, I almost cried. Instead of shells, the beach was full of plastic! Thousands of pieces on that stretch of sand: uncountable amounts! You couldn’t even think of picking it all up. Every hundred feet you’d find a hundred pieces. We picked up a couple of bagfuls and arranged them for the illustrations for this article.

the actual harvest of plastic bits separated from the driftwood and kukui nuts

All I could think was that:The end is here - we’ve finally done it. We’ve created so much junk, while at the same time killing the ocean and reefs, that we have replaced the shells on our beaches with plastic! Non-biodegradable, lasts virtually forever, plastic.

We wondered, where did it all come from? Much of it was old and worn down, so it probably wasn’t just dumped from a cruise ship off shore. The current there is from North to South, so it probably didn’t come from the rest of the island chain. Did it all come around the Pali from Hanalei? Or, dread the thought, is our ocean so full of it that any big surf will wash that much junk ashore? Is it all just floating in the ocean in such great amounts?

Another thought that has been nagging us is, where have all the shells gone? When my husband lived here 30 years ago, it was his experience that a variety of large, whole shells the size of your hand could be commonly found. Even 6 years ago when I first visited Kauai, I found quite a few different shells, smaller in size, but at least whole. The past 3 years that we have lived here, we have found that finding a whole shell is a rare occurrence. We find mostly broken, worn down pieces of shells. We have heard locals say that it is harder and harder to find the shells they used to, and that even on Niahau, the shells to make the leis are becoming less common.

Is this because we have so damaged and polluted the coral reef, the ecosystems and the ocean water that the inhabitants of the shells are becoming more and more rare? Are they headed for extinction?

My husband remembers finding plastic on the beach 20 years ago at Fairfield Beach on the coast of Connecticut . He assumed it was washing up there from the big population center of the New York Metropolitan area. He and his young daughter Laura would walk the beach picking up trash abd taking it home. They would rinse the plastic litter and arrange it in a rainbow on the Laura's window. They'd sing their own words to "The Itsy Bitsy Spider".

For my husband and his daughter this might have made picking up the plasic ditreous of 15 million neighbors a bit easier to take, but here on Kauai, there is no population center nearby to generate this amount of junk. And we have some wonderful rainbows without colored bits of plastic washing up on the beach. So, where is this stuff coming from? Is it now a pervasive condition of the ocean? Is it from the mainland?

Will this be the legacy here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? Kids gathering plastic instead of shells on the beach? Will this now be the memory of our Keiki here on the island?

Here are the words to that beachcomer's song from Connecfticut.

The little bits of plastic were strewn along beach,
Laura picked them up with her long long reach.
She picked up an pink one
and picked up an orange one
And spread them on the windowsill
to make a rainbow.


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