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Goodbye Gorilla Ogo

By Jack Kiyonaga, Reporter 

Photo by Jack Kiyonaga.

Armed with rakes, buckets and heavy-duty trash bags, volunteers took to Molokai’s south shore with a target in mind: the invasive gorilla ogo. 

Gorilla ogo is a type of algae likely introduced to Hawaii’s ecosystem in the early 1970s by Filipino shipping vessels. Prone to creating fast-growing clumps around reefs, gorilla ogo can strangle native coral and dominate reef ecosystems. 

To combat this algae threat, Molokai nonprofits Sust’ainable Molokai and ‘Aina Momona have partnered to lead community cleanups. The most recent cleanup occurred last Friday at Kaunakakai Wharf.  

Raked from the exposed shoreline, mounds of spiny red and brown ogo ran the length of the beach. Volunteers shook sand from the clumps and packed the ogo into bags under the midday sun. Organizers said the last partnered cleanup in February collected 1440 pounds of ogo. 

Heather Place, project coordinator for Sust’ainable Molokai, explained that this cleanup was the second one this year but had a much better turn-out than the previous Feb. 25 event. 

“It’s good that we had more people come for this one,” said Place. “The Kona winds push the ogo closer to shore so it’s easier to pick it.” 

Once picked and bagged, the ogo is born into a second life as fertilizer. 

“Once we collect the ogo, we take it to one of our partners ‘Aina Momona at the Keawanui Fishpond,” where it is used to “fertilize their kalo and their crops,” said Place.  

Sust’ainable Molokai wants to expand this ogo usage and is “looking for different farmers that want to use the ogo as a fertilizer,” Place explained. Currently, the Molokai High School garden is one of the other users of ogo fertilizer. 

‘Aina Momona staff member and cleanup volunteer Iolana Corpuz explained the post-collection process by which the ogo becomes useful for farms. 

“After the clean-up, we take [the ogo] to our farm down at Keawanui. We spread it thin and rinse it out. Then we let it sit for a couple of months. After that, when it’s dry, we till it into the ground and mix what we have with mangrove charcoal. That combination with the rich nitrogen soil that we have…it makes for awesome kalo,” she said. 

Corpuz recounted other uses for the ogo as well, including topical application around citrus trees, which enhances the flavor of the tree’s fruit.

Sust’ainable Molokai plans to host a clean-up every month, according to Place, with the next scheduled for Saturday, April 1 at 1 p.m.


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