Clam Bleaching In Cooks Linked To Climate Change

Stronger El Niño conditions blamed for impacts on coral

By Solomone Rabulu 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, May 24, 2016) – Coraland giant clam bleaching was one of the issues raised as an effect of climate change at yesterday’s “Brilliant Resilient” seminar held at the National Auditorium Centre.

Ministry of Marine Resources secretary Ben Ponia said the bleaching effects were directly related to the El Nino patterns caused by climate change.

“The El Nino is a warm pool of ocean water that seats above the ocean and that warm water basically stresses very small algae that live in the coral, when that alga gets stressed by the heat, it will leave, leaving the corals white.

“The warm water which comes from the warm pool is generated by the El Nino that is caused by climate change.

“Normally in natural conditions, you will just have an El Nino which brings strong cyclones, strong droughts or even hot water temperatures every now and then which the atolls are particularly vulnerable to as our coral reefs are very sensitive and are very fragile eco system.”

Ponia added that climate change was a very real issue in the Cook Islands and the country was actually in the frontline of its impacts.

“Unfortunately for us as small islands states, we are left to suffer the impacts of what larger countries do in polluting the atmosphere. We can use technology and monitor what’s going to happen and maybe be smarter on how we can better manage our resources that are stronger to cope with these impacts.”

Deputy resident representative Jaime De Aguinaga said it was important for communities to identify what their priorities and concerns were when it came to climate change-related issues and not to rely much on civic societies or the government to carry out this role for them.

“This will allow community members understand what their priorities are in their respective communities.

“Communities can have access to new water tanks or highlight specific areas to address their concerns with agriculture, or get new equipment for a sustainable fishery which is the potential role of the United Nations Development Programme. We are helping the Cook Islands to gather access to financial resources and our role is to facilitate that access to global resources.”

De Aguinaga said the UNDP also provided technical support for projects implemented at community level.

“We have many of the best experts in the world working on these issues, not only here in the Pacific but also the Caribbean and the rest of the small islands developing states around the world.

“We are bringing that knowledge to the Cook Islands to find out the most effective approach we could use to be able to address the issue of climate change. At the same time we (need to) facilitate the implementation of the project to build project management capacity and communication.

“This will ensure that we maximise the use of those resources because climate change is a global problem that has local consequences.”

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