The project, which finally ended in August, was designed to remove abandoned pearl farming materials and other waste products from the lagoon in an effort to improve pearl production and quality.
It is hoped the work will encourage expansion of the black pearl farming industry through the clearing of areas suitable for pearl farming.
The project, which began in February, was headed by the Development Coordination Division (DCD) of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) with the support of a project panel set up to monitor its progress.
The panel included representatives from DCD, New Zealand Aid Programme and the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR).
A project manager was appointed in April last year to oversee implementation of the project. Following the drafting and confirmation of a clean-up plan, a public tender was conducted to identify a Contractor to carry out the work required. Pacific Divers Ltd were awarded the tender.
Support was provided to the contractor by the Manihiki Island Government who were responsible for disposal of material collected from the lagoon.
The Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) provided logistical support as the authenticators for locating farm areas to be cleaned.
A dive expert was also recruited to review the technical aspects of the contractor’s work.
Thirty-three pearl farms were cleaned up as a result of the project and a combined area of 341.93 hectares was cleared, along with 232.8 tonnes of pearl farming materials and 67.7 km of rope, all of which was disposed of.
Most of the waste removed consisted of ropes and floats and the bio-fouling (microorganisms, plants, algae, or animals on wetted surfaces) growing on them. Other materials included roofing iron, tyres, household utensils, plastic piping and kerosene stoves.
The dive team worked on the lagoon for 90 days in what was described as an effective and efficient operation. The volume of materials removed averaged over 2.5 tonne a day, an impressive effort from all that participated.
Pearl farmers already want to expand in to some of the cleared farming area.
The project produced side benefits, one of which was the upskilling of Manihiki residents, a spokesman for the project said.
“Seven divers who took part in the project achieved advanced open water certification.”
While the activity was focused on pearl farms, the project will have positive impacts on the overall lagoon health and its ability to continue as an important source of food for the Manihiki community.
The fact that an external contractor was able to use local labour to complete the clean-up has been praised as providing good balance to the project. The Manihiki island government now has the equipment used in the project as well as trained people who are capable of removing debris on abandoned farms in the lagoon in future.
- Release/Shae Osborne