Algae not harmful says tourism head

Monday January 11, 2016 Written by Published in Environment

Despite the growing masses of sludgy green algae blanketing large areas of Muri lagoon, Cook Islands Tourism is adamant visitors can swim there without any risk to health.

And Cook Islands Tourism Corporation chief executive Halatoa Fua also said some people are “enjoying the green algae because it is attracting fish”.

Recent news reports about algae in the lagoon were disappointing and sensational, he said.

“There is no way this is a national disaster or that anyone is in danger of getting sick.”

“There is a small patch of algae, but it’s completely non-toxic and perfectly safe for swimming and snorkelling,” said Fua.

Muri’s water is frequently analysed by WaterCare NZ and is consistently good, he added.

“It’s actually a very small area which is just offshore. Some people are enjoying it because it’s attracting fish.”

But CI News has continued to receive reports about tourists who are unhappy to swim in the area, due to the large growth of algae which stretches along almost the entire length of the main swimming section of the lagoon.

A significant amount of algae is even washing up on the shore and covering the beach.

But Ministry of Marine Resources secretary Ben Ponia said generally the water quality data suggests that the bacteria levels are acceptable and should not pose a problem to humans swimming in the vicinity.

Chlorophyll (phytoplankton) levels have been trending upwards, suggesting increased levels of nutrients such as nitrogen, but these are also within
acceptable environmental standards, he said.

An initial assessment by the SOPAC (GeoScience Division of the Secretariat of the South Pacific) suggest that the short to medium term mitigation to further improve the water quality in the Muri lagoon should focus on improving lagoon flushing.

The option recommended was to dredge a distance of about 500 metres from the passage to the big fish trap.

The National Environment Service is working with the Muri community to develop an environmental impact assessment report (EIA) for the proposed dredging work, said National Environment Service director, Joe Brider.

However once the EIA is completed, it will go out for public comment before going to the Rarotonga Environment Authority who has the final say on the issue. 

1 comment

  • Comment Link Mike Hunt Monday, 18 January 2016 08:31 posted by Mike Hunt

    You're fooling yourself if you think it's safe to swim in water that's polluted with poop. Human and chicken poop to be exact. The lack of proper sewage systems at the hotels and homes has made Muri lagoon a murky, smelly, uninviting place to visit. As a five time visitor over the last 20 years I have seen first hand the degrading water quality. On my last visit I didn't even swim once while on Rarotonga and I love to swim. Your fearless leader Puna needs to spend more time at home and less time traveling on the tax payers money.

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