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Singer taking shoreline poisoning case to federal court

Sydney Ross Singer, Plaintiff pro se

State and Feds Plead for Immunity in Shoreline Poisoning Case
Hearing Set for 10 a.m. Monday, April 26 in Federal District Court in Honolulu

To the casual observer it looks like some kind of natural disaster. Dead trees, 20 acres of them, line the shore at the Wai Opae Marine Life Conservation District, a popular snorkeling spot. The same blighted scene also mars popular Isaac Hale Beach Park, also known as Pohoiki, with 7 acres of trees dying in the surf, leafless and stark against the surging tide.

The dead trees are mangroves. They are the newest target of Big Island invasive species zealots, who have decided to condemn the mangroves because they are non-native and are creating new ecosystems. To these people, preservation of our environment means killing anything that was not here 400 years ago, prior to Western contact. Any changes to the environment brought about by introduced species, even positive changes, are grounds for environmental war.

But not everyone regards mangroves as invasive in Hawaii. In an article entitled, Mangroves as alien species: the case of Hawaii, by James A. Allen, USDA Forest Service, Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, he explains, “Mangroves are playing some of the same roles in Hawaii for which they are valued in their native habitats, such as sediment retention, water quality improvement, and the production and export of organic matter. They may also be providing shoreline protection and other important goods and services.”

He further states, “Mangroves appear to have a generally positive influence on water quality in Hawaii. Sediment retention, for example, can be quite high in Hawaiian mangroves, and may contribute to improving the quality of offshore waters…On Molokai, turbidity was lower on coral reefs adjacent to mangroves than on reefs with no adjacent mangroves and a negative relationship was found between mangrove basal area and turbidity of adjacent waters (Bigelow et al., 1989). The authors attributed these patterns to effective sediment retention by mangroves. In addition to an apparent role in reducing suspended sediments, Walsh (1967) reported that the high nitrate and phosphate levels in Heeia Stream were reduced significantly in the upper reaches of the swamp, indicating that the mangroves may be serving as a sink for these nutrients.” (Global Ecology and Biogeography Letters (1998) 7, 61-71.)

In fact, mangroves are protected worldwide by governments and even by the United Nations. The importance of mangroves to coral reefs and marine life is well documented, and the rapid loss of mangroves to development is alarming officials everywhere.

However, all this means nothing to Hawaii’s invasive species exterminators, who label mangroves as invasive since they are not native to Hawaii, and call for their complete eradication from the entire State. Most mangroves are on Oahu and Molokai. But first, they wanted to do an experiment on the Big Island, where a total of about 40 acres of mangroves have created small, healthy ecosystems along the Big Island’s rocky and otherwise barren shoreline.

The experiment was to use poisons to kill the mangroves, something that has never before been done in the entire world, and admittedly was “original research”. The goal was to use poisons, donated by Monsanto and BASF, as a cheaper and quicker method of mangrove eradication than hand clearing. Working through a private, unincorporated association called the Big Island Invasive Species Committee, the agenda of eradicating all the mangroves on the Big Island was conceived, funded, permitted, and executed by a handful of private individuals and others well placed in government agencies, including the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the County of Hawaii.

No environmental assessment was done by the County, State or Federal agencies involved, despite the fact that this was being done on state land, using government money, along the shoreline, and on conservation land, all of which are triggers for an environmental assessment. No permits were required by the DLNR, which claimed this was noxious weed removal and was insignificant, although mangroves are not listed as noxious weeds. The County of Hawaii required only an SMA minor permit, and exempted the experimental poisoning of mangroves at Onekahakaha Beach Park in Hilo and Isaac Hale Beach Park in Puna from an environmental assessment, claiming that this is merely “routine park maintenance”.

No public comments were allowed. No secondary impacts of the poisoning were considered. No formal determination was made of which endangered species might be harmed by poisoning these sensitive shoreline areas, known to be home to numerous endangered and protected species, including the Hawaiian stilt, Hawaiian coot, Hawaiian hawk, Hawaiian duck, Hawaiian monk seal, Hawksbill Sea Turtle, and at least two nominated endangered arthropods.

The National Park Service is opposing the use of the poison to eradicate mangroves at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, which is also on this mangrove experiment hit list. But nobody got in the way of the poisoning at Isaac Hale Beach Park, or Paki Bay, or Wai Opae Marine Life Conservation District. Onekahakaha Beach Park is next.

A citizen suit was filed in February to stop this poisoning of the shoreline until an environmental assessment is done and needed permits are obtained. Despite the lawsuit, poisoning of mangroves within the surf at Isaac Hale Beach Park continued by Malama o Puna, despite a request from their funding source, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, to stop the poisoning.

The motion for a preliminary injunction will be heard on Monday, April 26, at 10AM in Federal District Court. At the same time, the court will hear motions by the State and Federal governments asking for sovereign immunity for these actions.

The doctrine of sovereign immunity essentially states that the government can do no wrong, and can only be sued if it allows itself to be. Clearly, they don’t want to take responsibility for this obvious violation of environmental law.

The public is outraged by this poisoning of our shoreline recreational areas. Surfers at Pohoiki complain about the film of oil now in the ocean from the recent poisoning. The air smells like sewage from the massive leaf drop following the poisoning. Leaves and dead baby mangroves that were pulled up and left in heaps along the surf wash back and forth with the tides. Dead trees left to rot pose a hazard to surfers, swimmers, and boaters, and the nearby coral reef as they break and enter the ocean. A dead landscape will stain the beauty of these areas for decades, as the hard wooded mangroves slowly decay.

The government is supposed to protect the environment from actions such as this. When they fail, it is up to the citizens to stand up for their environmental rights and sue.

This is not about mangroves and whether or not they “belong” in Hawaii. This is about government agencies and private interests acting as vigilantes, circumventing the law to kill whatever they label “invasive”. Clearly, the greatest threat to our environment is not so-called invasive species, but those who wage war against them and the environment in the name of species cleansing.

To find out more about the lawsuit, and to see some shocking pictures of what these “environmentalists” have done, visit

Wai Opae Marine Life Conservation District (Photo couresty of Sydney Ross Singer)

5 Responses to “Singer taking shoreline poisoning case to federal court”

  1. Glenn says:

    The problem with mangroves is they are very aggressive. If not restrained they will completely take over all open shoreline space. In Florida where mangroves are protected some beachs have completely disappeared under the mangroves and open water areas that used to be great fishing areas are now unaccessable because of the mangroves. Mangroves are a useful species but will end up being the strawberry quava of the shoreline if not stopped.

    • Keenan Kramer says:

      You can argue about that the mangrove should be removed from Hawaii but Florida? I am 13 years old I know that mangroves are native to California. Not to mention mangroves are beneficial for the fish, water quality, and coral reefs. On the coast Ethiopia mangroves are being planted to feed livestock and at the same time making the Red Sea a more productive ecosystem. But I do see your point.

  2. Jonathan Price says:

    Unfortunately Mr. Singer has cherry-picked information to make it appear as though magroves are net positive in Hawaii. Here is a more complete quote from the article he cites: “Known negative impacts include reduction in habitat quality for endangered waterbirds such as the Hawaiian stilt (Himantopus mexicanus knudseni), colonization of habitats to the detriment of native species (e.g. in anchialine pools), overgrowing native Hawaiian archaeological sites, and causing drainage and aesthetic problems. Positive impacts appear to be fewer…”. The reality is that the negatives of mangroves in Hawaii outweigh the positives.

  3. Jonathan Price says:

    I would personally favor physical removal of the mangroves, but this is simply not realistic. Again referring to the article Singer himself cites, physical removel of mangroves costs “at least $377,000/ha on sites where mangroves are being removed by chainsaw crews”. Considering that one hectare (“ha”) equals about 2.5 acres, it would cost about $3 million to attempt to completely remove 20 acres manually. It is safe to say there is no budget for that anywhere these days. Moreover, existing regulations do not allow the use of chainsaws in this area except in special circumstances.

  4. Nani Pogline says:

    Heres the thing. You may like mangroves and think they are good for the environment, or you may think they are horrendous invasive species distroying the earth. The queation is, should humans control everything, and do they do a better job than nature? In the quest to obtain supremacy over nature, more harm has been done. Humans have always been the main threat to creation. Nature always seeks a balance and heals its self. How arogant to think we can change and form the world with powerful herbicides and biocontrol. Leave the earth alone. How about some Zen behavior. Walk lightly, with respect and humility. Stop the godzilla thinking.


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