We loved our recent trip to Rarotonga (read about it here), but we were concerned about the loss of coral, the growth of weed – it looks like we as visitors are contributing to the decline of the very thing that makes this place special.
Sadly it looks like Rarotonga and New Zealand have a lot in common – once pristine environments now under increasing pressure from economic development that is threatening the very things that make them special.
Once rich diverse ecosystems are threatened by development. Apparently it happened in Jamaica high led the tourist revolution in the 1950s and by the 1980s it’s rich coral reefs were overgrown with unsightly weed.
In a recent trip to Rarotonga, The Cook Island News an entire page is given over to an article by Tom Hawkins outlining the issue. 22 July The next day an article outlines a research project trying to understand what is happening in the once pristine Muri Lagoon which we are staying beside. read more
What is happening ?
Coral thrives where there is not much nutrient. Development ups the nutrient level in the lagoon, through sediment run off and septic tanks. The coral dies, weed flourishes. Stocks of the parrotfish that eats weed are dropping because of over fishing…
Those who are aware of these issues say new developments should be limited to the land side of the road. But that is not happening – of course people want to be as close to the water as possible.
However we visited a beautiful tropical garden on the land side of the road, which had created an idyllic world, with just a short walk or bike ride to the beach.
Some people are catching on – Gwen at Muri Beach Cottages where we stayed has installed water filters so less plastic bottles are used.
But unless we as tourists start to change what we are asking for, and pay attention to the costs of our visits to these islands, then we are contributing to the demise of a unique biodiversity hotspot.
You still have torquoise water, warm weather, coconut trees and a thoroughly warm welcome in Rarotonga. But underneath the water is a different story. The richly diverse ecosystems on which all life depends is slowly dying.
However it is not all bad – they are starting the process to save the Lagoons – and they need our support to do it. Read about Women Travel’s recent trip to Rarotonga here
Recently a team of marine consultants, funded by the European Commission, are in Rarotonga to provide support to the Ministry of Marine Resources on Muri Lagoon’s environmental restoration – Read more here