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Hawai‘i Cacao President Recognized as ʻInvasive Species MVP’

February 17, 2019, 12:00 PM HST
* Updated February 16, 8:34 AM
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East Hawai‘i Cacao Association President Patrick Merritt (middle) receives an MVP award for his efforts to prevent invasive species. DLNR photo.

During a ceremony proclaiming February as Hawai‘i Invasive Species Month, Gov. David Ige recognized East Hawai‘i Cacao Association President Patrick Merritt among the ʻMost Valuable Players’ for invasive species prevention in 2019.

Merritt received an MVP award for going the extra mile to protect cacao and its farmers from invasive pests. When a cacao association member reported a sick tree, Merritt went to investigate the situation and captured an insect that was identified by the Hawai‘i Dept. of Agriculture (HDOA) experts as an Australian longhorn beetle. The invasive beetle attacks cacao and other important Hawaiian plants.

Merritt conducted his own research on the beetle after it was identified and shared his findings with farmers and other agencies. While no treatment is currently available to eliminate the beetle, cacao farmers are now more vigilant and making an effort to trap them before they lay eggs.

Merritt received his award on Feb. 15 as part of a ceremony led by Gov. David Ige designating February as Hawai‘i Invasive Species Month. The proclamation is an effort to bring greater awareness to invasive species issues in Hawai‘i.

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