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Muri lagoon icon ‘murdered’

Thursday February 19, 2015 Written by Published in Local
Muri lagoon icon ‘murdered’

There is outrage in Ngatangiia after a group of local fishermen ‘murdered’ a well-known icon in a protected area of Muri lagoon – an aged moray eel some called ‘Roger’.

Although no one is able to say exactly how old the moray eel was, many visitors to the island and local residents in Muri have enjoyed seeing the huge tame eel while on snorkelling excursions for some 30-years. 

The eel, which was nearly two metres long, was one of three large moray eels in an area that hundreds of tourists a week delight in visiting while out on the popular Muri lagoon glass bottom boat cruises.

The eel would come out of its hole when snorkellers came to visit it. 

Last Friday, local whale researcher Nan Hauser was at Muri lagoon when she saw a group of fishermen in the area.

The men appeared to be net fishing in a Raui area, an area protected from any fishing activity. As the men scooped fish from their nets, one man roared like a hero as he lifted the huge eel over his head to show off his prize – the tame old eel he had just speared.

On Monday, cruise tour operators in Muri confirmed that one of the three eels living in the lagoon could not be found and those outraged by what they call is an act of ‘murder’ found images on social media network Facebook of the group posing with the dead eel. 

Hauser says that she has been taking her students to see the magnificent moray eel in Muri lagoon for many years. 

“Every student that I have ever had has learned to love moray eels from this blessed animal.” 

The group of youths and one older fisherman involved in the incident include known village athletes, who appear to not be aware of the importance of the tame eel and the status of the area. 

CINews tracked down one of the young men who had been out on the fishing excursion.

The youth proudly identified himself as one of the men that had speared the fish.

When asked if he knew that the area of the lagoon where they had speared the fish was a marine protected area, the young man said they believed the location was not within a Raui.

Asked if he knew how important the eel was to the economy by providing a unique snorkelling experience for visitors to the island, the young man fell silent.

Asked what they did with the eel, he appeared to be remorseful as he responded quietly that they had buried it.

When a Raui is declared within an area of the lagoon, no activity such as fishing or collection of shellfish is permitted. The ban is enforced by traditional leaders.

The rules of the Raui have not been legislated, although there is a draft ready to be passed through Parliament.

According to Kori Raumea at the Ministry of Marine Resources, as far as they are aware, when traditional leaders introduced and promoted the Raui concept, 12 areas around Rarotonga were declared a Raui.

Today only five such areas remain. Raumea says these are located in the lagoon areas outside the Edgewater Resort in Arorangi, The Rarotongan Beach Resort & Spa in Aroa, a small area of lagoon in Tikioki known as ‘Motu Kore’, an area in front of the Little Polynesian in Tikioki and a small area near Avana harbour.

Raumea says that as far as he is aware, the Muri lagoon area is not protected by an actual Raui, but says the area has long been conserved by lagoon tour operators.

He says tour operators can create more awareness by informing people of the conservation work they do in the area in order to deter others from fishing in the area.

The team at Marine Resources are always available to help with mediation and discussions to progress the mana of Raui-protected areas, Raumea says.

Koka Lagoon manager Serena Hunter is among a group of locals outraged at the unnecessary killing of a gentle marine creature that provided a wonderful experience for visitors and locals using the lagoon.  

"It’s not even as if it was to feed the family, it was just a pointless, unnecessary act,” says Hunter.

“And it’s not as if you had to be a good shot. That eel was tame, and would have been a sitting target. 

It’s just so frustrating and disappointing."  


  • Comment Link bella anthony Tuesday, 07 April 2020 11:22 posted by bella anthony

    I have been to Rarotonga when I was younger I remember so many times on tours and snorkelling we would see roger happily in his little cave and he would occasionally come out to see the tourists and to swim to a different little rock cave thing. The tour guides would say hello to roger and roger would amaze people of how long he was. So sad the people had to go and kill him as people learned and took away that memory of seeing a moray eel while staying in Rarotonga. RIP Roger.

  • Comment Link tekura Tuesday, 24 February 2015 14:23 posted by tekura

    These fishermen should be ashamed of themselves. How could they kill an innocent Moray eel that God had created. Shame on you..!! How dare you show your self at a Marine Resource without permission..

  • Comment Link Cam of Sydney Tuesday, 24 February 2015 13:55 posted by Cam of Sydney

    RIP Roger!

  • Comment Link Lana Monday, 23 February 2015 12:26 posted by Lana

    The men/man in charge should be dealt with and fined along with having his boat taken. There should be a clear law in effect to make this type of thing against the law without a doubt. There should be markers to keep fisherman and boats away from the area. Take action to make sure this doesnt happen again. Dont be senseless as they were. Make an example of these men and arrest them.
    And this kind of act just sickens me. These men have no sense of beauty or love. Selfish sick people!

  • Comment Link Kiwi tourist Sunday, 22 February 2015 23:09 posted by Kiwi tourist

    My wife and I have visited Rarotonga many times in the last 10 years, and stay somewhere near Muri, mainly to snorkel out from Fruits of Rarotongato see the Morays and other fish life. To find that some locals have killed a Moray and were netting in the area makes me wonder about whether locals actually appreciate what tourists bring to the islands. Very sad, and very sad that there was an older person with the youths (who may not have have known better, but should have been able to learn from an elder).

  • Comment Link Tim Jones Saturday, 21 February 2015 19:00 posted by Tim Jones

    We have been to raro now 6 or 7 times and are again booked to come back. Your Lagoon is one of your main drawing card for tourists. We have watched the changes of the lagoon over the last 10 years. I can't stress enough how important reserves are to preserve your wildlife and keep the tourist dollars coming in. From Canada many people go to Hawaii and most people come back talking about the turtles or whales they have seen while on holiday. We come back from Raro and talk about the snorkeling how great it is and what we have seen. To stress my point this last trip we spoke about the green eel we saw in front of the little poly, the baby sea snake (2 inches long), the parrot fish, the amazing clams with their electric colored lips,..the foot long leopard eel, a 7 legged blue starfish... Tourists like to brag about what they have seen. The most powerful advertising you have is someone telling their friends and family about things they have seen. Those people now want to see it for themselves.. Take that amazing resource away and you have one less major draw to the island. I too have seen Roger and so have friends that came with us one trip. The friends will be disappointed to hear he has been killed. I also feel bad for the guys that killed it, I'm sure at the time they didn't understand what they had done. It takes all of us to look after your resources, tourists also need to be respectful and make sure they aren't damaging your lagoon.

  • Comment Link mana Saturday, 21 February 2015 15:00 posted by mana

    The eel was caught in Titikaveka by one person on a Tuesday. The area is not Raui!!! Clearly this article points the finger at all those in the photo which is unfair, but anything to sell newspapers right!!. The eel was chasing the boys for some time as it was following their tui. Because of this threat the man speared it. Check out this info on morays http://scuba.about.com/od/fish/ss/Moray-Eels-Facts-And-Information-For-Scuba-Divers_2.htm... There are many eels in the Rarotonga, is there proof that the eel was indeed the pet they have advertised? I doubt if the eel was tame as you have advertised it would not have chased them. To accuse without proof is unlawful. To kill an animal that is a threat to humans is not. The fish that were caught on the day were to feed the families... the eel would of been eaten if it were not poisonous... a moray of that size full of ciguatoxin which gives you fish poisoning

  • Comment Link Tihau Bishop Saturday, 21 February 2015 07:45 posted by Tihau Bishop

    Kia Orana Nan and CI Conservation Anau,

    For the Anau of those who killed this Taonga... Shame, Shame, Shame..

    For the Anau of this Taonga....Aue, Aue, Aue.

    T in Haumoana..

  • Comment Link Donna H. Saturday, 21 February 2015 04:54 posted by Donna H.

    Were these local fishermen or tourist?

  • Comment Link Tanya Paora. Saturday, 21 February 2015 01:15 posted by Tanya Paora.

    That's soooooo sad

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