News Briefs | May 2020

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Hawai‘i’s Kalo Supply Takes Another Hit

Kaua‘i’s Keālia Farms, which supplies 10% of Hawai‘i’s commercial kalo and sources the iconic Hawaiian-owned Waiāhole Poi Factory, is being evicted by landowner Keālia Properties LLC, part of the inventory owned by Nolan Capital, a private equity and real estate company based in Southern California. The eviction goes into effect on May 13th.

Kalo farmer Adam Asquith, owner of Keālia Farms, leases 100 acres from Keālia Properties LLC, about 60% of which is under kalo cultivation. The farm has been in operation for ten years.

Kalo is already in short supply, and poi prices so high that it is slowly being rendered a “special occasion” item instead of something our lāhui can consume daily or even weekly. So the loss of yet another kalo farm, particularly in the midst of this pandemic where food sovereignty for our islands is top of mind for many, is even more egregious.

The eviction notice, served in February, caught Asquith by surprise, as he has several years remaining on his lease. His greatest concern, however, is that he has kalo in the ground that will not be ready to harvest for another year. His request to the landowner to be allowed back on the property to harvest the kalo when it matures was denied. Said Asquith, “we can’t seem to get any traction on increasing kalo production in Hawai‘i. Every time we take one step forward, we take two steps back.”

Bishop Museum Introduces Their New Online Learning Center

In the midst of their temporary closure to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bishop Museum is looking for new ways to support the public.
One such initiative, inspired by our collective “work at home” and “learn at home” situations, is the Museum’s new Online Learning Center. The Online Learning Center features photos, videos, blog posts, podcasts, activities, and lesson plans on various subjects about Hawai‘i and the Pacific, including history, culture, and science. These resources are provided free to the public by Bishop Museum staff.

The Museum will upload new content to the Online Learning Center every week, and preview these resources via their social media channels and email. Additionally, for Bishop Museum members, the Museum will be creating exclusive opportunities to access and interact with Museum experts directly. More information regarding that is forthcoming.

To access the Online Learning Center go to: www.bishopmuseum.org/online-learning-center/.

Nā Hōkū Hanohano Moves to September

The Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts (HARA) has announced its annual Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards show will be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The awards show has been rescheuled for Thursday, September 10, 2020 at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. The star-studded gala will be broadcast live on KFVE-TV (K5) and streamed internationally.

“After extensive consideration, it is with a heavy heart that we share our decision to postpone the 43rd Annual Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards,” said Amy Hanaiali‘i Gilliom, HARA president. “The health and well-being of our community, award nominees, staff and thousands of people who attend the awards show each year is our priority. From our HARA ‘ohana to yours, we’d like to send our love and aloha to everyone in Hawai‘i and globally who are affected by this pandemic.”

HARA has also established the Kōkua Hawai‘i Entertainers Fund to benefit its members, many of whom are without work during this pandemic. To help launch the fund, HARA and KFVE-TV co-hosted a two-hour television concert on April 25. The concert will repeat on KHNL on Sunday, May 3 from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. All funds raised will go towards helping HARA’s musicians during this difficult time. For more information on the concert series, or to donate, please visit www.harahawaii.com.

Members voted for the preliminary ballot of the Awards last month. The five entries receiving the highest number of votes in each category will appear on the final ballot.

Jury Verdict Affirmed in West Maui Land Case

On April 6th, the Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) affirmed the decision of a Maui jury in June 2017 that recognized Kaua‘ula Valley resident Ke‘eaumoku Kapu and his family as the owners of a kuleana parcel in Ko‘oka, Kaua‘ula Valley. The ICA decision comes after a nearly 20-year struggle.

In 2002, Makila Land Company, a subsidiary of West Maui Land Company, filed suit against the Kapu family claiming title to their family land. A jury trial was held in 2017 to determine who owned the land in question. After a week-long trial the jury ruled in favor of the Kapu family.

Makila Land appealed to the ICA, claiming three procedural errors during the trial and one legal error before the trial by Circuit Court Judge Peter Cahill, however their appeal was rejected.

Makila Land and the Kapu family have two other cases concerning neighboring kuleana parcels pending before the Hawai’i Supreme Court.

Free Online Educational Resources for Parents/Educators

The Center for Educational Reform (CER) has announced that their Essential Education Database is now available and most of the resources available via the database are free. The Database provides searchable resources for home, remote and digital learning during the COVID-19 crisis. The Database is updated daily and is a resource for parents who have been thrust into the unfamiliar role of homeschooling their children due to the stay-at-home mandates in most states. CER states that their Database is a one-stop-shop “for the best and latest efforts in accessing substantive, innovative education options, here and across the globe.”

The Database includes resources and tool-kits for parents and educators. Resources are available for pre-kindergarten, K-12 and even higher education. To access the Database go to: edreform.com/covid-database/

OHA Files Motion in Maunakea Lawsuit

In early March, OHA filed a Motion for Summary Judgment in connection with its lawsuit against the State of Hawai‘i and the University of Hawai‘i over their continuous mismanagement of Maunakea.

“It is beyond doubt that the state’s mismanagement amounts to a breach of trust and a breach of its fiduciary duties in its management and disposition of the Native Hawaiian Trust, including Maunakea,” said OHA Trustee Dan Ahuna, Chair of OHA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Maunakea. “The facts in this case are indisputable, with even the Governor himself proclaiming that the state has failed Maunakea.”

OHA filed its lawsuit in 2017 after it became clear that neither the State nor the University of Hawai‘i would resolve serious, long-neglected management issues related to Maunakea and work towards a solution that included balancing their fiduciary duties to the Native Hawaiian community with their primary focus – building telescopes on the mauna.

That the State has “failed” Maunakea was the conclusion of Governor David Ige who publicly stated on May 26, 2015: “[W]e have in many ways failed the mountain. Whether you see it from a cultural perspective or from a natural resource perspective, we have not done right by a very special place and we must act immediately to change that […]”

Survey: COVID-19 Affecting Patients’ Access to Cancer Care

Cancer patients and those who’ve recently completed treatment are finding it challenging to get necessary health care during the COVID-19 pandemic and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) says many are also experiencing financial stress trying to afford care in an increasingly difficult economic environment.

A recent survey reports that 51% of cancer patients have experienced some impact on their care due to the virus, the most prevalent being a delay in care or treatment. While the economic stress is prevalent across all respondents, the concern is especially pronounced among patients with lower- and middle-class incomes. Nearly half of those earning $30,000 or less say they’re worried about affording their care.

“Reduced work hours and job loss is having a notable effect on a cancer patient’s ability to access and afford healthcare all the while knowing their underlying health condition is increasing the chance of severe complications if they do get COVID-19,” said ACS CAN Hawai‘i Government Relations Director Cory Chun.

Patient groups, such ACS CAN, are asking Congress and the administration to help patients by providing assistance for people who have lost employer-sponsored health care coverage as well as creating a special enrollment period for Healthcare.gov and increasing state Medicaid programs. “If passed, these actions could benefit cancer patients here in Hawai‘i,” said Chun.

Local Effort to Build Bridge Ventilators Awaits FDA Approval

A team of Hawai‘i engineers and an emergency room doctor has received funding of $250,000 from the Hawai‘i Resilience Fund at the Hawai‘i Community Foundation (HCF) to produce bridge ventilators named Kahanu, which means “the breath,” the ventilator is made of durable, sterilizable materials and can be produced in Hawai‘i for about $1,200 each. Medical grade ventilators can cost more than $25,000 each. A Kahanu ventilator can serve as a “bridge ventilator” that can be enlisted in an emergency to save a patient’s life.

There are about 535 ventilators in the state. Hawai‘i is preparing for the anticipated need for additional ventilators, particularly on the neighbor islands. “There is a concern that a breakout on any of the neighbor islands could be devastating, especially in our rural communities,” said Dr. Kai Matthes of the HiCOVID community task force and a member of the Kahanu team.

The project has the support of the Lt. Governor and other medical professionals. Kahanu is currently undergoing an expedited equipment review by the FDA. The funding will allow the team to manufacture at least 200 ventilators to support Hawai‘i hospitals that need to expand their capacity.

As an open source project, the designs and technical schematics developed for Kahanu are available for anyone else to to build their own devices, or to build upon for other projects. To date, three international teams are already preparing to use Kahanu’s design.

Another local firm, Bear Machinery from Kāne‘ohe, was also recently commended in a Star-Advertiser article for developing and producing bridge ventilators to support Hawai‘i’s medical needs during the pandemic.

Groups Sue to Protect Imperiled Pacific Oceanic Whitetip Sharks

On April 2, Earthjustice filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a local conservation group and individuals to enforce protections for oceanic whitetip sharks, a species listed as “threatened” since 2018 under the Endangered Species Act.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Conservation Council for Hawai‘i and Michael Nakachi, a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner and owner of a local scuba diving company. It aims to force the National Marine Fisheries Service to take long-delayed action to protect oceanic whitetip sharks.

Once one of the most abundant species of shark, the population has declined significantly. Scientists estimate that in the Pacific Ocean alone, oceanic whitetip populations have declined 80-95 percent since the mid-1990s. Thousands of sharks are killed each year in the waters off Hawai‘i and American Samoa as “bycatch” in Pacific fisheries, meaning they are accidentally caught in nets or on lines meant to catch tuna and swordfish. Over the past decade long-liners operating in the Pacific Ocean have killed an estimated 20,000 oceanic whitetip sharks as bycatch. Despite this, the Fisheries Service has failed to declare that Pacific oceanic whitetip sharks are overfished. This declaration would trigger protective action by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

“No protections exist to prevent fisheries from capturing oceanic whitetip sharks as bycatch,” said Moana Bjur, Executive Director of the Conservation Council for Hawai‘i. “That needs to change if we are to prevent this incredible apex predator from going extinct. That’s why we’re going to court.”

“It’s time for the government to stop preventable shark deaths,” said Michael Nakachi. “As a kahu manō (guardian to the shark) I feel a personal responsibility to speak up on this issue, but I believe we all share a duty to ensure the survival of this sacred animal.”