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Students help protect Aitutaki lagoon

Wednesday December 07, 2016 Written by Published in Outer Islands
Aitutaki Reef Keepers marine biologist and coral reef ecologist Charles Waters with some of the enthusiastic students from Araura College, Aitutaki. 16112930 Aitutaki Reef Keepers marine biologist and coral reef ecologist Charles Waters with some of the enthusiastic students from Araura College, Aitutaki. 16112930

Aitutaki Reef Keepers are working closely with schools and communities in Aitutaki in an effort to help, preserve and enhance the island’s huge lagoon and provide a more sustainable marine environment.

 

Marine biologist and coral reef ecologist for the Ministry of Marine Resources, Charles Waters says they are working closely with students of Araura College in Aitutaki to teach them the basic skills involved in protecting their marine environment and preserving it.

A couple of years ago Waters devised a method of transplanting young clams directly onto the coral and into the lagoon by using circular clam chambers.

“Then some students and faculties from a school in Houston, Texas, in America found my idea and actually made 10 kits of those chambers and sent them to me to put in the lagoon,” Waters said.

He said it was an excellent example of knowledge transfer from one side of the globe to another on how marine organisms can be restored. The Texas students had also sent them a video that gave step-by-step instructions on how to assemble a proper chamber, which the students were following.

“It is a small example but a good example that looks at how many people did one small thing to help our marine environment,” he said.

Waters visits schools in Aitutaki and conducts presentations about growing coral and clams.

Students are invited to the hatchery to work on transplanting clams and coral and take them to the lagoon.

“It has been quite successful in addition to improving the marine environment and most importantly, associating the students with the skills involved in a programme like this.”

Waters wants the students to grow professionally and his presentations include promoting the program and basic and accounting financial literacy.

“It’s a way of getting them ready for tertiary education and they are able to pass the ideas and experience they acquire to their families and colleagues and wherever they go, (what they have learned) is basically capacity-building.”

Waters said working in Aitutaki and being amongst students had been uplifting and inspiring for him as it gave him a sense of hope that people would come to love their marine environment. He said his work is not limited to students and he invites church and community groups and other organisations to be part of the programme.

He added that the main idea was to get everyone on Aitutaki to be “reef keepers”.