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Te Ipukarea Society Brochure 2017-18
learning how to use various weather instruments such as this rain gauge Bird recorded deployed on cliff facing edge at the top of lake Tiriara

Project office Alanna Smith was in Mangaia late March (2018) carrying out a couple of school training programmes and conducting the first ever acoustic sea bird surveying project.
Mangaia School students were able to receive the SRICC funded learning by doing weather stations programme where students were introduced to a range of different weather instruments, and were taught what each instrument measures, how to correctly read each instrument, how to record the data and then how to interpret collected data. The objective of this project is so that school students can become more aware of those changes occurring in their micro climate and potentially be able to forecast the likes of approaching depressions with the given instruments.

A refresher course was also conducted on the schools worm farm and compost bin, to remind the students about what organic waste can be disposed into each unit and what the benefits are of composting. Mangaia school has had their worm farm and compost bin for 2 years now, which TIS installed thanks to funding from the GEF Small Grants programme.

An acoustic bird survey was also carried out with the help of TIS member Jason Tuara. The survey targets sea birds such as petrels and shearwaters. In the past Black winged petrels, wedged tailed shearwaters and tropical sharewaters have been recorded on Mangaia. The aim of this project is to obtain updated information and identify whether these prior species found on Mangaia are still present today or potentially new species maybe present. The recorder was deployed on the top of the cliff facing edge at lake Tiriara and has been set to record ambient noise 4 hours a day in the late evenings when petrels and shearwaters are likely to be active. The recorder will be picked up in a months time for data analysis

Rattus rattus (Ship Rat) Photo: Gerald McCormack An example of a rat-specific bait station, from India

Are you having problems with rats? Rats can be very annoying. They can destroy your garden and crops, spread and carry a whole lot of diseases and just the presence of these pests in your household could make your nice comfortable home feel very unpleasant to live in. Rats have been effectively controlled in the Takitumu Conservation Area for nearly 30 years, using rat poison. However, if you are thinking of trying to control the rats in your location using poison, there are a few precautions that you need to take.
Te Ipukarea Society has some experience with rat bait, mainly through our involvement in the 2013 rat eradication project on Suwarrow. This experience has led us to use “Island Bait” rat poison. This is manufactured by Bell Laboratories Inc. in the USA. Bell Laboratories Inc. is a world leader in rodent control technology. The “Island Bait” rat poison is specially designed to be effective and suitable for tropical island climate weather, making an ideal solution for us here in the islands. This particular bait type comprises a base matrix of cereal grains which are bound together with sugars and synthetic compounds that make it attractive and highly palatable to rats. And while the bait should be applied in situations that it remains dry, the matrix is resistant to some moisture, but will degrade following prolonged exposure.
The poison affects the ‘vitamin K’ cycle in mammals and results in haemorrhage (internal bleeding) of internal organs. Not all animals are equally susceptible i.e. rats are highly sensitive to it whereas we humans are not (it is still recommended to reduce exposure through use of gloves).
In a domestic environment rat bait should be contained (and not scattered loosley on the ground) so that dogs, chickens, stock and children etc. cannot access it. The best way to use this bait is by placing it inside bait stations, that the rats can get in, but larger animals cannot squeeze in. This can be achieved by placing the bait within a piece of drain pipe (ideally with the size of which only rats can enter), or an ice cream container with a cut out tunnel. Ensure the bait station is secured in an area that is away from non targeted species, and where rats are active. Relatively small amounts of bait should be dispensed into a bait station at a time (no more than a cup or 250gms).
Sensitivity of animals to the bait differs between taxonomic groups and species, for example, rats are more sensitive than mice, some birds are more sensitive than others. “Island Bait” will be effective against all three species of rats we have here in the Cook Islands – The Polynesian Rat (Rattus exulans), Ship Rat or Black Rat (Rattus rattus), and the largest of the three, the Norwegian Rat or Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus). The Bell Lab “Island Bait” rat poison will be used to eradicate the remaining population of polynesian rats on Suwarrow Island in May this year.
Predators like cats, chickens and dog could get secondary poisoning by consuming a contaminated rat. However, it is not serious and can be treated with vitamin K.
A few precautions to be followed if you are using rat poison are:
• Wear protective equipment such as gloves when you handle the bait. Brodifacoum is a slight skin irritant and a mild eye irritant.
• Small children should be closely supervised while bait is still present on the ground.
• Land crabs and chickens active in the area should not be eaten for a minimum of six months after bait is applied.
• Pigs should be removed from the area so that they do not have access to bait and should not be let loose or returned to the area for at least six months after bait application.
• If young children or domestic animals do somehow get poisoned by rat bait, Vitamin K is an effective antidote.
If you have any questions and inquiries or you are interested in using rat poison, come and see us at the Te Ipukarea Society office down in Tupapa next to Bamboo Jacks for some more advice. We do have limited quantities of Bell Lab “Island Bait” rat poison for sale, This is not to create profit but will be used to purchase a new round of bait to use for our upcoming work on Suwarrow this year, as there is a small chance that by May some of the bait will begin losing its effectiveness, as our current stock was meant to be used on Suwarrow in September 2017.

Liam questions Mr. Matthews via video-conference Liam and some fellow YPL delegates at Kīlauea

TIS project officer Liam recently travelled to the Hawaiian Islands to participate in the 2018 Young Pacific Leaders (YPL) Conference on the 15-18 January. The conference is hosted jointly by the East-West Center which is based at the University of Hawai’i, and the United States Department of State.
The main purposes of the workshop for delegates were as follows –
1) Strengthen their leadership capacity,
2) Enhance their knowledge of opportunities for economic and civic development in the region,
3) Deepen their knowledge of the U.S. partnership with the Pacific, and
4) Build a supportive network of like-minded change-makers across the region.
The conference was jam packed with a number of sessions which revolved around a range of issues facing the Pacific region. The following report covers the sessions which had the most relevance to the improved sustainability of our Pacific Region:
On the first day the group was given the opportunity to participate in a video conference with Mr. Matthew Matthews, the Deputy Assistant Security, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. It was during this meeting Liam was able to ask Mr Matthews: “What is the United States doing to assist the Pacific Island region to address the issue of marine litter and pollution in the Pacific, noting that much of the litter found in the Pacific can be traced back to the U.S.?” Unfortunately the conference was “off the record” and for that reason his answer cannot be published!

On the second day the group travelled to Hawai’i island (also known as “Big Island”), after which the state of Hawai’i is named. While travelling to the Hilo market the leaders listened to a presentation by Margarita Hopkins, the Development Specialist for the Hawai’i County Department of Research and Development. Margarita discussed Small Island Economic Development through local products – particularly agricultural products. Hawai’i Island has a long-established and successful agriculture industry for both domestic and international export and there were many areas where Rarotonga may be able to learn from Hawai’i’s agricultural success.
Also on Big Island, the young leaders visited the Pacific Aquaculture & Coastal Resources Center (PACRC) University of Hawai’i at Hilo. Here the group observed a number of projects working to achieve more sustainable sourcing of marine resources. These included raising tilapia fish through aquaponics (the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture), raising Pacific oysters for export to the U.S. through aquaculture, and most interesting was the raising endemic Hawai’ian ornamental fish species, in attempt to address the overharvesting of these species through the acquarium trade. Many of these fish species had never been bred in captivity until PACRC initatied this project.
Their final presentation on Big Island was by the Cindy Orlando, Superintendent of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park who talked about the work they do connecting people with national parks through education, volunteerism and philanthropy. This was followed by a visit the the majestic Kīlauea volcano, which in Hawaiʻian mythology is said to the be the resting place of Pele, the goddess of fire, and therefore one of the most sacred sites in the archipelago.
On the final day of the workshop, attendees visited the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters at Sand Island, Honolulu. Here Liam was able to learn more about what the Coast Guard is doing to combat Illegal Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing in U.S. waters. In the latter half of the day the young leaders worked on brainstorming for project ideas which they now may be able to make a reality, as the group now has access to apply for grants from the U.S. YPL grants which can fund up to US $13,750.
Liam would like to thank Te Ipukarea Society for supporting his attendance at this conference which has boosted his leadership capacity as well as increased his knowledge of what is happening in the Paific Region in the areas of environmental sustainability, economic, and social issues.

Red postman butterfly

How many Cook Islands News Readers have noticed an abundance of one particular butterfly recently? One that they had not seen in previous years? Staff at Te Ipukarea Society have noticed many of these new butterflies around their office, homes, and also up in the Takitumu Conservation Area when assisting with the work up there.
A little bit of research led us to identify this new butterfly as Heliconius erato cyrbia, commonly known as the red postman. The butterfly is here to do a special job, which is called a biological control, or biocontrol agent, and was introduced to control the invasive red passionfruit vine Passiflora rubra. The red passionfruit is an invasive vine throughout much of the southern group of the Cook Islands, it out-competes native plants, and can kill old trees by smothering them. The importation of this butterfly was enabled under a joint project by Landcare Research in New Zealand and the Cook Islands Ministry of Agriculture. The chief scientists on this project were Dr Maja Poeschko from the Ministry of Agriculture and Dr Quentin Paynter from Landcare Research.
Biocontrol agents are usually a much more effective way of controlling pests than mechanical removal (weeding and cutting) and much safer than using chemical poisons (which are often toxic). These days a very detailed and thorough environmental impact assessment must be done before introducing any biocontrol agent. A good example of a biocontrol project that went wrong, and possibly the first biocontrol agent introduced to the Cook Islands was the Mynah Bird (manu kavamani), possibly to control Coconut Stick insects (‘e’e) and paper wasps (rango patia), in 1906.

Landcare Scientist Dr Quentin Paynter came to Rarotonga in the first half of 2016 with about 80 of these butterflies, which were then bred to increase their numbers at the Ministry of Agriculture. Extensive testing was done prior to its release to make sure it didn’t pose a threat to edible varieties of passionfruit.

In an article just after the original release, Dr Paynter said there were plans to eventually release it at other islands, in particular Atiu, which has a globally recognised remnant of makatea forests that is threatened by invading red passionfruit vines, which could overtake the native forest.

Landcare Research’s weed biocontrol work in the Cook Islands is funded by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Above: Coastal protection is critical for low lying atolls like Fakaofo

Tokelau is located 500km north of Samoa and 600km north-west of Pukapuka, where the Cook Islands and Tokelau share a common marine boundary. In fact Pukapuka is twice as close to Fakaofo in Tokelau as it is to Rarotonga. The three atolls of Tokealu are very similar to our own norther group atolls. The atoll nation has a population of about 1500, and a total land area of only 10 sq.km. It is regularly serviced twice a month by a 2 day voyage from Apia, Samoa, and is the first nation in the world to be powered 100% by renewable energy.
In early October Te Ipukarea Society’s Kelvin Passfield travelled to Tokelau from Samoa as a part
of a larger consultation team travelling for the GEF Small Grants Programme. The team travelled on the cargo vessel Fa Sefulu, for consultations on Faka’ofo, Atafu, and Nukunono, the 3 atolls that make up Tokelau. The purpose of Kelvin’s travel was for discussions related to the Australian Government funded Global Environment Facility Small Island Developing States Community Based Adaptation (GEF SIDS CBA) climate change project. This is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and being delivered by Te Ipukarea Society in Tokelau, Niue, and the Cook Islands. The consultation team were ferried ashore at each island for consultations while the cargo was being offloaded, which afforded 6 to 8 hrs on each atoll for discussions and site visits.
Formal meetings were held with the Taupulega (council of elders) on each atoll where Kelvin explained the project and asked for some ideas about possible projects for Tokelau with the available funds. With only about NZ$60,000 available, a decision needs to be made on whether one larger project on one atoll is undertaken, or whether smaller projects could be undertaken covering all atolls.
Possible project ideas discussed related to ecosystem based foreshore protection, improving access to safe drinking water, and improving the quality of the soil to build resilience to the impacts of climate change. There was also a presentation by two biogas experts from Apia on a proposal for a Waste-to-Energy biogas pilot project for Tokelau. This would be based on utilising pig manure and a biodigester to produce methane gas for cooking. The experts, Mr. Usufono Fepuleai, and Ms. Sose Utu-Fepuleai have a successful biogas plant in Apia at the Youth With a Mission (YWAM Campus) that they use for demonstration purposes. Cook Islander Tom Wichman has trialled biogas plants using pig waste in Rarotonga in the past, but apparently there are none functioning currently, possibly due to the down turn in commercial piggeries.
The final decision on which projects will be implemented in Tokelau is dependent on the three Taupulega of Tokelau, with the decision expected early November.
Te Ipukarea Society would like to extend our sincere appreciation to the UNDP Samoa Office, and in particular GEF Small Grants Programme Sub Regional Coordinator Filifilia Iosefa, as well as the Tokelau Apia Liaison Office, and Loia Tausi form the Tokelau Environment Department, for assisting with logistics for the travel. Funding was provided by Australia through the GEF Small Grants Programme Global Grants.

The seaweed washes ashore where it rots and stinks, not a good impression for tourists. Physical removal of seaweed in Muri Lagoon is just a short term solution. The root cause of the nutrients feeding the seaweed need to be addressed

There has been considerable debate about the impacts of tourism on the Cook Islands these few weeks in the local media. We thought it may be timely to document some of Te Ipukarea Society’s activities, and the activities of others, that attempt to reduce the impact of tourism on our little paradise.
As an environmental NGO Te Ipukarea are not antitourism, and in fact tourism and its impacts on the environment are among the reasons we were formed back in 1996. However we are supportive of a more sustainable approach to the development and operations of the industry. Until such an approach is adopted, we agree with Sel Napa’s recent comments that any growth of tourism in its current form needs to be strictly controlled. Our infrastructure needs to catch up with our rapid increase in tourism numbers over the past 10 years, to be able to cope with it. While it is great that Government has major infrastructure projects underway, such as the water project and renewable energy, these projects do not deal with the major tourism related issues affecting our environment
Muri Lagoon is a classic example of what can happen if we do not consider the impact of tourism growth
There has been considerable debate about the impacts of tourism on the Cook Islands these few weeks in the local media. We thought it may be timely to document some of Te Ipukarea Society’s activities, and the activities of others, that attempt to reduce the impact of tourism on our little paradise.
As an environmental NGO Te Ipukarea are not antitourism, and in fact tourism and its impacts on the environment are among the reasons we were formed back in 1996. However we are supportive of a more sustainable approach to the development and operations of the industry. Until such an approach is adopted, we agree with Sel Napa’s recent comments that any growth of tourism in its current form needs to be strictly controlled. Our infrastructure needs to catch up with our rapid increase in tourism numbers over the past 10 years, to be able to cope with it. While it is great that Government has major infrastructure projects underway, such as the water project and renewable energy, these projects do not deal with the major tourism related issues affecting our environment
Muri Lagoon is a classic example of what can happen if we do not consider the impact of tourism growth on our environment. While influx of waste water from inadequate septic systems is not the only cause, there is little doubt that is a significant factor.
We appreciate that the smaller scale tourism (Air BnB type accommodation as Minister Mark Brown pointed out) generally has a lower impact on our environment and major benefits to our local economy as the money earned on these properties, generally stays in country. It is the high density tourism, where anywhere from 3 to 300 accommodation units are squeezed into small coastal sections, that is having the largest impact on our lagoon
The overflowing landfill is another issue that is getting worse, despite recent improvements in the recycling process. Te Ipukarea Society has been promoting a container deposit (refund to consumers upon return of the empty bottles) system for more than 10 years, in order to generate revenue to be able to ship our glass and plastics offshore. We are very pleased to see some promising progress in the past 12 months with support from WATSAN for the progress of the sustainable financing mechanism. This is referred to as an Advanced Disposal Fee (ADF), and will include the refund deposit and a small sum for recycling costs. WATSAN is also working on a policy to ban polystyrene imports for takeaway foods.
Te Ipukarea Society also regularly submit comments on the Environmental Impact Assessments for coastal tourism developments. Typically, our written submissions are that these developments should not proceed unless they can show minimal impact on our environment. These impacts usually relate to sewage disposal and the impact of rock wall revetments on our foreshore. Despite our submissions, invariably the Rarotonga Environment Authority, consisting largely of Members of Parliament from both sides of politics, approve the developments to proceed.
Some tourism operators, including some of the larger resorts, are making a real effort to ensure their hotels, tours and restaurants have minimal impact on our island. For example, they ensure their sewage systems are fully compliant with the regulations, and have an efficient recycling and composting system operating within their own premises, reducing what they have to send to the landfill. A growing number actually make a contribution to the work that Te Ipukarea Society does for our environment, through the Mana Tiaki programme. Unfortunately, others are blindly continuing to operate in favour if their bottom line, the money, with insufficient regard for our Ipukarea. For example, we know several major resorts are digging holes where they burn and bury
their rubbish, rather than pay for it to be taken to the landfill. The managers know they would never get away with that approach in Australia or New Zealand, but here they can, so they do! What is needed is more time, effort and money being channelled by these operators into reducing their current impact on our Little Paradise before we go about encouraging additional numbers of tourists to visit. Hopefully these errant operators can be encouraged to follow the lead of those operators who are utilising a more “island friendly” way of doing business.

Kelvin and Alanna representing BirdLife at the WCPFC-SC, alongside Karen Baird (left) from Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand)

Te Ipukarea Society staff attended the West and Central Pacific Commission (WCPFC) Scientific Committee meeting which was hosted here in Rarotonga in August by the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR). As members of Birdlife, which has observer status at the WCPFC, we were fortunate to be able to participate in this scientific forum.

This meeting is where the fishery scientists representing the various members of the WCPFC get together to agree on what scientific advice they should give to the WCPFC managers of the fisheries. The group of fishery managers meet every year in December to agree on how best to manage the various tuna fisheries in the West and Central Pacific Ocean.

Unfortunately, there is not always a consensus on what advice is put forward by the Scientific Committee, as the scientists representing the various fishing nations often have the interests of their fishing fleets influencing their input. For example, this year there was an effort to get agreement on a target exploitation level for South Pacific Albacore, but this has been deferred for another year due to no consensus being reached.

It was quite an environmentally friendly meeting, with large water bottles being used for people to refill their cups or reusable bottles, so there were no piles of empty plastic bottles for the land fill. Also there was very good use of biodegradable coffee cups and plates for the morning and afternoon teas.

Te Ipukarea Society would like to congratulate the team from MMR who have done an excellent job in organising this large meeting of scientists in the Cook Islands.

Liam with some of the other Kuki's on a Tongan reef flat An example of poorly planned development - this mangrove system was killed by placing a road through it

Liam recently commenced a postgraduate certificate in Ridge to Reef Sustainability through Queensland’s James Cook University (JCU), alongside fellow Kuki’s from the Cook Islands National Environment Service and Infrastructure Department. The group travelled to Tonga last week for a postgraduate induction training week, hosted by Secretariat for the Pacific Community (SPC) and run by lecturers from JCU. The postgraduate certificate is a part time course, and students will complete one paper per semester with the aim to complete all four papers by the end of Semester 1, 2019. The study programme was created in order to build the capacity of Pacific Island people from the 14 Pacific Island Countries who are a part of the GEF Pacific Ridge to Reef (R2R) programme. The group of student’s first paper is titled ‘Ridge to Reef Ecosystem Dynamics’.

Some of the Cook Islands contingent who are taking part in the Postgrad Certificate in Ridge to Reef Sustainability.
In Tonga, days usually consisted of morning and afternoon classes, with a field trip around midday. During the class sessions the new students covered the requirements of the assignments they will be working on this semester. Each of the four field trips took the group to a different type of ecosystem, as what better to explain ecosystem dynamics than to visit the sites themselves? Below is a brief summary of the different ecosystems which the group visited.

Day One: Reef Flat Habitat
The team visited this site at low tide to better observe the different biodiversity present. Interesting to note than the animal species and abundance changed as they travelled further from the beach towards the reef. This site predominantly consisted of silty-sandy flats, patches of seagrass, and dense coral groves.

Day Two: Rocky Shore
This site was also protected by a reef and quite calm near the shore. Within the back-reef area, holes in the coral rock (rockpools) turned out to be hotspots for marine biodiversity. There was high wave energy action around the channels and where the reef meets the ocean, which has led to formation of blowholes and other rock sculptures. Biodiversity (particularly coral and seaweed species) was also different in these high energy areas.

Day Three: Mangrove system
Consisted of two sites, one relatively pristine mangrove site at Captain Cook’s landing and another mangrove site which has been partially cleared and replaced by groins in an attempt to create sandy beaches along a coastal road. The important role of mangrove systems as a coastal protection, sediment filter, and animal habitat was also discussed.

Day Four: Port and Urban Development
The team visited the national port and a former mangrove tidal flat which has been cleared and/or cut off from its connection to the sea. Large areas of this coastal area have been filled in with rocks in order to provide solid ground for housing development. A large man-made river has been created to allow water to drain out to sea, while there are also plans to turn the area into a tourist hub including a gold course. The environmental impacts of this infilling and the associated development are uncertain.

Day Five: A special case study
The group visited a large mangrove area which lay in between a village and an area which had agricultural potential. A road was built across the mangrove area to connect the village to the land and provide access to the planting lands. However due to poor design and a lack of understanding of the ecosystem, the road blocked off the flow of salt water to the other side. As a result the mangroves in this area were experiencing severe dieback, particularly one species of mangrove (there were three species in the area, inhabiting different tidal zones). The group learnt that different species of mangroves can tolerate different levels of salinity, which is the reason that one mangrove species died off completely due to the road being built while others did not. The whole habitat could have been protected with a better study of natural processes occurring in the area and engineering to allow water to flow underneath the road.

Meitaki ma’ata to Global Environment Facility (GEF) for funding the Pacific Ridge to Reef Programme, SPC for hosting the event, and NES for the support.

Alanna's wearable arts costume represented the Rimatara Lorikeet (Kura)

Te Ipukarea Society Project officer Alanna Smith, was crowned Miss Cook Islands 2017 on 29th July. During Alanna’s campaign she showcased her Atiuan roots from presenting herself as the female warrior Aketairi through her traditional costume and within the wearable arts section as the endangered (IUCN Red list) Kura bird of Atiu (Rimatara lorikeet). Alanna was also able to promote the work of Te Ipukarea Society during her Q & A sections.

Alanna’s next challenge now as the new Miss Cook Islands is to take on Miss World to be held in Singapore and China in November this year. Alanna will continue to work for Te Ipukarea Society and be a strong advocate for the work that the society does along with raising further awareness around conservation within schools and within communities throughout the Cook Islands.

Liam gets up close with a curious juvenile humpback Liam with the BPM team

Te Ipukarea Society Project Officer Liam Kokaua was fortunate to be able to participate in scientific research of the East Australian Humpback populations in the Great Barrier Reef last week. Here is a summary of his experience:

Humpback whales are a large whale species growing up to 16 metres in length. They often make seasonal migrations across thousands of miles of ocean. There are many distinct Humpback populations around the world and they can be found in all the world’s oceans and in both Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The population we were studying were the East Australian Humpback (EAH) sub-stock, which is a part of the wider South West Pacific population. The EAH sub-stock travel from the cold waters off Antarctica where they feed on food such as krill, to the warm and calm waters within the Great Barrier Reef to breed and give birth.

The history of this population is one of tragedy as well as resilience. After traditional whaling in the 18th and 19th centuries, followed by the highly efficient “scientific” whaling by Russia in the 20th Century, there was estimated to be only 200 whales left from an original number of approximately 30,000. However since whaling pressure was reduced in the 1970’s their numbers have grown exponentially to an estimated 30,000 (similar to their historic numbers), and their numbers are still increasing! Other populations in the South West Pacific have not been able to rebound so quickly and in some areas their continued existence into the future is uncertain.

Working with the Blue Planet Marine team (BPM) aboard the vessel Flying Fish V I was able to learn first-hand how to collect scientific data from humpbacks. This included:

• How to spot humpback whales and identify their behaviour from a distance (exhalation, breaching, pectoral fin and fluke slapping etc.)
• How to take high quality identification photos of dorsal fins and tail flukes which are used to identify individuals
• Learning how to determine the social structure of a pod (i.e mother and calf, male ‘escorts’, a ‘competitive pod’ of males chasing a female, and so on).
• Learning how to take biopsy (DNA) data, which includes retrieving sloughed skin (dead skin which whales leave on the surface of the water), and taking live tissue samples, which requires firing a small dart which collects a small amount of tissue from the whale
• Recording underwater whale song and other social sounds through use of a hydrophone

The biopsy data is useful for building our understanding of humpback whales for a number of reasons, but one of special interest for us in the Cooks is trying to identify whether the whales in the EAH sub-stock have genetic overlap with the sub-stocks which visit the South Pacific. There is a belief amongst some whale researchers that the whales which visit the GBR may also be a part of the sub-stocks which visit the South Pacific Islands, which includes Tonga, Niue, and our own whales here in the Cook Islands.

Thanks to the BPM team for having me on board during the six days, and for teaching me so many crucial skills for marine mammal research. Thanks also to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) for covering the costs of my participation on this research project. I feel I have learnt a lot about Humpbacks and marine mammals in general and look forward to being able to use these skills I have learnt again in the future here in the Cook Islands, as well as better advocate for the wellbeing and conservation policy for marine mammals here in the Cook Islands as well as the wider Oceania region.

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