Trial To Remove Algae From Cooks Lagoon Successful

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Pilot dredging project scrapes invasive algae off bottom

By Rashneel Kumar

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, March 31, 2016) – The trial to scrape algae out of Muri lagoon using an excavator has been a success, says Chamber of Commerce president Stephen Lyon.

The trial, which started earlier this month, was a pilot project to clear algae from the lagoon through dredging.

spearheaded by the Chamber of Commerce, the trial has produced desired results and Lyon is compiling a report to be submitted to concerned stakeholders for further consideration.

"During the trial, methodology was trialed and adapted to get the best results while reducing any negative impacts," Lyon says.

"Where the algae has been removed the lagoon floor immediately responded by returning to a coarse, white sandy bottom."

No negative issues affecting the marine ecosystem were recorded during the trial, Lyon says.

"The machinery worked to avoid any areas where corals and other sensitive habitats are present and any negative impacts were avoided.

"During the work, a sediment plume was present, but this dispersed quickly without any lasting effect.

"Both Ministry of Marine Resources and Environment Service officers were present for part of the work."

The trial began about three weeks ago with four volunteers surveying the test area.

They marked off a line to ensure no coral heads would be included in the area where dredging work took place.

Before and during the excavation, volunteers removed sea cucumbers and starfish from the area. The excavator’s rake bucket was also tested and modified to improve performance.

A trial was also made using a six-tonne excavator mounted on a barge, but this proved difficult without the barge being anchored.

"The contractors that have worked on this have done so in great spirit, and everyone involved has worked hard to get this trial completed," Lyon says.

"A complete Environmental Impact Assessment for clearing the rest of the algae from the lagoon has been submitted to the National Environment Service, and it is in government’s hands to move forward from here."

CI News emailed NES manager - advisory and compliance division Vavia Tangatataia for comments, but no response had been received from him when this report went to press.

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