Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Freshwater Fauna Research

There is a need to ensure that the water is not overharvested from streams. This is because some of the animals in the streams are highly dependent on the continuous flow of water in order to migrate and breed.
“Freshwater fish such as gobies and eleotrids breed in streams and their larvae go to sea to become adults. The adults must travel up the stream to breed,” says Philip Keith of the Museum of Natural History in Paris.
Eels are the other way around and breed in the sea and migrate upstream to mature," he adds. Keith was in Rarotonga with two other freshwater fauna (animals) experts, Philippe Gerbeaux and Gerard Marquet. They were here to do an inventory of freshwater fauna. They will be taking samples of the fauna for genetic analysis in order to accurately classify the animals found in Rarotonga's streams. Perhaps appropriately, TIS met with the team from France on Bastille Day, 14th July 2010 at Le Bon Vivant cafe.

Meeting with Hon. Minister Cassey Eggleton, Minister for the Environment, 15 July 2010

This was to inform Minister Eggleton of our intention to set up the Trust Fund for the Takitumu Conservation Area.
Minister Eggleton recently returned from the 4th GEF Assembly in Punta del Este, Uruguay (24-28 May 2010). The TIS Executive decided that Minister Eggleton could assist with attracting funds towards the trust by mentioning this initiative whilst networking. The Executive also asked to discuss the outcomes of the 4th GEF Assembly and the revival of regular meetings of Cook Islands environment groups to help coordinate our efforts. The Minister’s office advised that these items could be discussed at the 2010 National Environment Forum. The Executive found that it was worthwhile to touch base with the Minister and bring to her attention some of the work of the Society.

Muri-EU Water and Sanitation Project Management Committee Meeting 2nd July 2010

Paul Maoate of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Planning reported on work completed in Muri as part of the Muri-EU project and the IWRM (Integrated Water Resources Management) projects. Fourteen boreholes have been dug to determine the depth of the water table, confirm soil types and provide points for sampling groundwater.Preliminary observations show that the groundwater is less than 2m deep along the foreshore. Water Supply and Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) are to coordinate a lagoon, groundwater and drinking water testing regime. There is a small budget for testing local innovations for effective and appropriate wastewater treatment solutions under IWRM. The recent risk assessment survey of Muri involved interviewing property owners in Muri about how much water they use, whether they catch their own rainwater or rely on the main water supply and how they treat their wastewater. The survey was done by MEC volunteers. The data was entered into a computer mapping system (GIS) to produce maps that would be sent to a risk assessment specialist. This has since been completed and the results were communicated at a public meeting in Muri late last month. Sylvia George, the communications advisor reported on awareness done in the village. The project has been reported on radio, newspaper and television in both Maori and English. A Muri Eco-warriors programme was started for young children of the area. A project website has been established There is also a facebook page for the project. A poster, essay, poem and debate competition was to be completed at Takitumu School 13-16 July 2010. There is also a project documentary underway focusing on the first phase of the project. This is being done by the CITV production team. Village notice boards have also be established outside key stores with information on the project. Sylvia has since finished her contract with EU and has moved overseas. A new communications advisor is due to be contracted. Also due is the deployment of a sanitation engineer who can formulate design concepts for the implementation phase of the project. An action fiche (work plan) is due to be completed in September 2010.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Presidents Report TIS AGM

The society has secured CEPF funds through Birdlife Sept 2009 for 2009-12 to support this long-running and most successful project to save the Kakerori. As of now, the birds’ numbers have recovered from 29 in 1989 to 320 on Rarotonga and 100 in the ‘insurance’ population on Atiu. However, the latest funding agency has made it obligatory that the project creates a trust fund which will remove the need for further outside funding. The society is exploring ways and means of obtaining a trust fund to support both the TCA and other protected natural areas throughout the Cook Islands.

Te Akatauira Recyclable Jewellery-Making Competition

The objective of this event was to encourage resourcefulness, environmental awareness, artistic ability and the use of waste materials to make jewellery. The event was implemented for school students in partnership with Paka’s Pearls, the Ministry of Education and Koutu Nui. Several meetings were held to refine the objectives, categories, criteria and guidelines. A jewellery making workshop for school teachers was also held on 24th February 2010 and again on 18th March 2010. Event organisers had the privilege of the assistance of Ani O’Neil and Jane Lamb to provide instruction at the workshops. School teachers were given a toolkit containing pliers, glue, sandpaper, and nails to begin their work with art students. Over thirty entries were received by the 9th April deadline. Judges found that the message “waste can be a resource” got through to students. After Kay George, Eruera Nia, Ian George, Jean Mason, Paka Worthington and Te Tika Mataiapo Dorice Reid completed their judging, a prize-giving night was held on 11th May at CafĂ© Salsa. The event was sponsored by the Global Green Grants Fund and Paka’s Pearls.

Conservation in the Cooks; setting priorities, building capacities

We have received word that funding through Birdlife from CEPF has been approved for this project which aims to involve the Cook Islands community in the identification of Key Biodiversity Areas and Important Bird Areas for focused conservation work. The project will enable TIS to employ a full time coordinator who will implement this project. The project also aims to build the capacity of TIS and enable a concerted effort to search for funds that will continue worthwhile work. The funding agreement between Birdlife and TIS was received on 13th July 2010 and will be signed this week. Birdlife has advised that funds for the project may arrive one week after receipt of the signed agreement. The Society is eternally grateful to Birdlife and CEPF for their support.

Recruitment of TIS Programme Manager

This position, made possible through the Conservation in the Cooks project, was advertised for two weeks in April 2010 and two applications were received. A selection panel was established comprising members of the TIS executive committee, the National Environment Service and a human resources consultant. Applicants were quantitatively assessed according to qualifications, skills and experience. The successful applicant was Jacqui Evans who has worked in the environmental field for 21 years and was the WWF Country Coordinator for the Cook Islands from 1998 to 2001. Jacqui has a BSc in Environmental Science from the University of the South Pacific and an MA in Geography from the University of Hawaii-East West Center. Jacqui has also been an active member of TIS in previous years and had resigned as Vice President before applying for the Programme Manager position. With the understanding that the funds from Birdlife were to arrive very soon, Jacqui began work on 31st May 2010. We welcome Jacqui in her new job.

Marine Reserves and Rahui Study Tour

Jacqui Evans travelled to New Zealand 8-18 May as an advisor to Koutu Nui for a tour of marine reserves and rahui in the South Island. The purpose of the tour was to explore observe and assess several examples where Tangata whenua are managing their traditional areas in various ways and with different tools – some under legislation and some not. Also to meet with NZ government managers to understand the way they are supporting Tangata whenua. The examples were not being suggested as necessarily the appropriate models for the Cook Islands but were selected to be thought provoking and challenging. The NZ Ministry of Fisheries organised discussions on Customary Fisheries Management in NZ and visits to several Marae in Lyttelton, Akaroa and Kaikoura. The study tour was funded by NZAID through the CIMRIS project (Cook Islands Marine Resources Institutional Strengthening). Others travelling on the study tour were Tairi te Rangi Rangatira Tupe Short of Koutu Nui, Iro Rangi of the Puaikura ra’ui, Dorothy Solomona and Kori Raumea of the Ministry of Marine Resources and Tauraki Raea of the National Environment Service. Fisheries scientist Jo Akroyd from the CIMRIS project accompanied the group. Jacqui says the tour had the additional advantage of being like a retreat, encouraging discussion about Cook Islands ra’ui between the Cook Islands government agencies and Koutu Nui. She says, this depth of discussion would not ordinarily take place on Rarotonga. Since the tour, TIS has drafted a summary of legislation that may be used to legitimise ra’ui and has attended three meetings with Koutu Nui and Marine Resources to move this along.

Open Science Meeting on Benthic Harmful Algal Blooms

Jacqui was on the organising committee for this meeting in Hawaii held 21-23 June 2010. The meeting focused mainly on algae that cause fish poisoning and irritant syndromes (as was experienced in Titikaveka in 2004). Discussions covered identification and taxonomy, modelling, ecophysiology and ecological factors driving their distribution, abundance and toxicity. There is more evidence that the abundance and toxicity of toxic algae is positively correlated with nutrients and temperature. There is still no reliable cost-effective field/kitchen test to determine whether or not a particular fish is toxic. The meeting was followed by a four-day workshop at the University of Hawaii on the taxonomic challenges and identification of dinoflagellates (the organisms that cause fish poisoning). Jacqui is required to work with the organising committee over the next few months on the production of the conference report.

Working Bee

A working bee was held to tidy up the TIS office on Saturday morning 17th July. The lobby and office have received a coat of paint. Volunteers enjoyed participating and finished the morning with a hot drink. Another working bee is expected in future to tidy up space on the outside.


TIS held it's 15th Annual General Meeting on 21st July 2010. The meeting was held at Osana Meeting House across the road from the TIS office.

The Patron of the Society continues to be Karika Ariki Margaret Karika-Taripo. Re-elected as President for his third term was Ian Karika. Vice-President is now Andy Olah, a long-standing member of several past executive committees.

Following the meeting, Jacqui Evans delivered a presentation on the Open Science Meeting on Benthic Harmful Algal Blooms which she attended in Hawaii.