HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 587: 27 October 2011

A step in the right direction
Behind the scenes the Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) has been busy working closely with the Manihiki Island Council to reissue pearl farm permits. Resident MMR biologist Georgia Langdon has been meeting one on one with pearl farmers to renegotiate lagoon farming boundaries draft farm permits for the Island Council to approve.
In 2000 when Manihiki was exporting around $20 million dollars of pearls it was estimated that was around 1,500 individual lines. Using new advanced geographical imaging systems the MMR has been able to accurately map each individual farm line. So far around 1000 farm lines have been mapped which have a total length of around 120 km – that’s four times the distance around Rarotonga!
It is estimated that over 100 farm areas are yet to be surveyed. When unable to be viewed from the surface, farm lines need to be marked at the start and endpoints which is a labour intensive process conducted on SCUBA. This can be a tedious process and hard work. In the farm shown in the diagram below there are over 100 farm lines. Due to the poor visibility of the water and many lines submerged to 40 meter depths, the MMR SCUBA divers spent over 8 hours marking out the farm lines. Since the previous mapping project, many abandoned farms boundaries have been retained on the map. These abandoned farms prevent existing farms from expanding and prevent new farmers from claiming prime areas.
The Island Council will reissue permits for another 5 year licensing period (2011-2016) and all areas not renewed by October 31st of this year will be made available to be claimed by other farmers. Those permit holders who have shown no farming activity in the past five years will have to forfeit their permits, as according to the Pearl Farming Lagoon Management Plan. This will open up areas of the lagoon to farmers to expand and increase production and also allow the opportunity for new comers to the industry.
Once the farm permits are approved the MMR will upload the digital maps onto Google earth map to be used as a management tool to allocate farm areas and control the levels of farming. Registered farmers will also be able to view their farm map and other information such as the depth of the areas. The farm license and map are a part of the lagoon management system which will see the MMR biologist and MMR business adviser sharing information such as farm maps, pearl shell census, farm production data, pearl harvest and seeding reports and biological and water quality monitoring data.
Over the next three years, The Government of the Cook Islands and the New Zealand and Australian Government through the NZ/AUAID Industry Support Programme and the Manihiki Pearl Farmers Association will invest over $5 million dollars into the pearling industry to help revive its once booming status. MMR believe the mapping and farm licensing is a step in right direction.

Herald Issue 554 09 March
- Norm exposes Trio of Doom
- Briefs from PM’s media conference Tuesday
- Tourism Industry ponders $5 million draft strategy
- Norman George resigns from Cook Islands Party
- Letter of Resignation from CIP
- Norman selfish says Prime Minister

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