Working in parallel with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management’s Project Management Unit, the team is contributing to on-going work around the integrated approach to assessing the degradation of Muri Lagoon.
The marine experts are working for AECOM International Development Europe, which is a multinational engineering firm that provides design, consulting, construction, and management services to a wide range of clients.
In March 2017, the Cook Islands government launched a study entitled the Interdisciplinary Assessment of the Muri Lagoon (IAML) to help improve knowledge relating to the environmental conditions of the lagoon.
The project, funded by the European Commission under the European Development Fund 2014-20 (EDF), is expected to be complete by the end of September.
The assessment of Muri Lagoon will complement the work being done by the ongoing Mei Te Vai Ki Te Vai project, which is dedicated to improving water quality in the lagoons of Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
The AECOM Team Leader, Jonathan McCue, says: “We are contributing our expertise to the Ministry of Marine Resources by reviewing existing monitoring data recorded in the lagoon to help identify improved monitoring approaches and protocols, along with proposing options for the removal of seaweed should any outbreaks re-occur in Muri lagoon.”
“We know that there has been a lot of research and discussion on this topic and people are keen and expecting to see action. This is why in addition to designing long-term monitoring and management solutions, we are investigating short-term measures to help alleviate the problem.”
The assignment is closely intertwined with the goals of the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Plan - Te Kaveinga Nui 2016-2020 - and in particular monitoring the health of the lagoon.
For this purpose, the project is undertaking a comprehensive review on the water quality and public health safety concerns; a review on the biodiversity status and health of the marine ecosystem; and specific tasks to raise public awareness on the protection of Muri Lagoon.
The team is currently on a field mission to Muri Lagoon. During this time, the team will review available data and literature to understand the environment, and design an integrated environmental monitoring programme to continually assess and report on the health of the marine ecosystem.
“This monitoring programme will be essential as it will complement discussions regarding ongoing sanitation upgrades and provide a basis to assist in determining future policy direction. Once we finish assessing the key parameters affecting the health of the ecosystem and the public safety concerns, MMR will be in a better position to decide the best way forward,” says McCue.
“We are working hard along with MMR and other project partners to identify the most effective solutions that can bring short-term water quality improvements while ensuring long-term environmental preservation,” he adds.