Cooks MP Alarmed By Seaweed Growth In Muri Lagoon

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Tuavera believes effluent disposal into lagoon is to blame

By Phillipa Webb

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Sept. 30, 2015) – Member of Parliament for Ngatangiia Tama Tuavera is up in arms about seaweed growth which he believes is choking life from the pristine waters of Muri lagoon.

Tuavera called the Ministry of Marine Resources on Friday afternoon to report the appearance of a seaweed-like substance which is now blanketing the floor of the lagoon.

The substance reaches from Avana all the way down to the far end of Muri lagoon near Nautilus Resort.

The Democratic Party MP says he has never seen the lagoon like that in the 23 years he has operated Captain Tama’s Lagoon Cruises on Muri lagoon.

He first noticed the seaweed a few weeks ago, then last Friday realised just how far its growth had stretched.

"I was shocked," said Tuavera.

"Not as many people are going in the water: this is choking the life out of the lagoon."

Tuavera believes effluent disposal into the lagoon is to blame.

"If there are any hoteliers in Muri who are concerned about the water...come and talk to your local MP."

CI News understands that at Tuavera’s request an employee of the Minister of Marine Resources (MMR) took samples and tested the lagoon water on Friday afternoon.

However and MMR spokeswoman said although they had taken samples she did not want to comment on the findings until a report was complete.

The National Enviroment Service (NES) and the Ministry of Health are also turning their attention towards the state of the tourism hotspot.

NES director Joseph Brider said the enviroment service was concerned and was working with MMR and Ministry of Health to address the water quality issues.

However a question mark remains over the cause of the green substance darkening the usually crystal-clear lagoon.

"It is a bit too early to comment on cause as we are still collecting information. Once further information has been collected, we will be able to assess our situation and plan forward," Brider said in an email yesterday.

CI News understands the lagoon situation was mentioned at a Cook Islands Tourism Corporation meeting last week.

Muri Beach Club Hotel general manager, Erika Bult told CI News the state of the lagoon was extremely concerning.

"We have seasonal seaweed which comes and goes,but the state of the lagoon is not improving."

Bult said in the four years she has been in Rarotonga the water quality of the lagoon had diminished.

The communications advisor and project manager for the Water Waste and Sanitation (WATSAN) unit of Infrastructure Cook Islands (WATSAN) Glenda Tuaine, said the unit was responsible for advising properties of the standards they had to reach for waste management.

However it was the Ministry of Heath’s job to enforce it.

CI News understands a report on the state of the lagoon will be issued early next week.

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