FW: Save Suwarrow Atoll (longish)

To: <>
Subject: FW: Save Suwarrow Atoll (longish)
From: "John Harris" <>
Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2001 10:02:18 +1000

I have just received this on my email at work.  I thought that all the
conservation-minded birders like myself would be interested, given the
threads on canon-netting etc. lately.


Suwarrow - Bird Island Under Threat

Suwarrow is an uninhabited atoll situated in the  northern Cook Islands,
over 800 kms from Rarotonga. Although uninhabited, it is a favorite stop

over for yachts traveling between French Polynesia and the Samoa  group.

Suwarrow is an important seabird-breeding site not only for the Cook
but also for the central Pacific and is significant in world terms.
species of seabirds breed on the atoll. Its reef-islets,  a mere 1.6km2,

support regionally significant colonies of Lesser Frigatebirds  (9% of
world population), Red-tailed Tropicbirds (3% of the world  population)
Sooty Terns (only 0.3% of the world population but exceptionally  large
colonies with a total of 71,500 pairs).

The atoll also supports locally  significant colonies of Red-footed
Boobies, Great Frigatebirds, Brown Boobies  and Masked Boobies. It is
also an important wintering site for the Vulnerable  Bristle-thighed
an Alaskan migrant.  As well as being an important sea-bird island, it
has the biggest population of coconut crabs in the Cook Islands, and is
nesting site for the endangered Green turtle. A well-known visitor to
Suwarrow's ocean is the Humpback whale.  In recognition of its wildlife,
the Cook Islands  Government declared Suwarrow a National Park in 1978
the Conservation Act  of the same year. But due to changes in successive
the National Park  status is considered by some as being invalid. The
conservation status of  Suwarrow is currently an issue of debate between

environmentalists and  government.

Development Plans for Suwarrow

To help entice potential investors to Suwarrow, the  Government in 1998
commissioned a Hawaiian company to draft an EIA based on  proposed
pearl farming development. However, the terms of reference for the EIA
were based on the predilection that pearl farming would happen. Those
pushing  development in the current government see the EIA as the green
light to develop Suwarrow. But environmentalists feel that the report
doesn't comprehensively address the management issues of the island.
The bid to attract investors has been successful when last year
developers submitted a proposal to the Cook Island  Government to
establish black pearl farming on the remote atoll.

This has  created an outcry from many Cook Islanders and environmental
groups from around  the world. It is feared that the proposed
will impact negatively on  Suwarrow's diverse wildlife by having up to
100 workers residing on the  island.  The Australian developers are
seeking a 60-year  lease to farm Black-lipped pearl oysters, and to help
kick-start the venture,  import the oysters from neighboring island
Manihiki, as the wild stock in  Suwarrow's lagoon is rare. The
introduction of pearl stock from elsewhere  is an issue of much concern
because of the increased disease risk. Recently, an  unusually high
number of Vibrio bacteria caused significant mortality in pearl shells
in Manihiki's lagoon. Also as the Black-lipped oyster species of
differs genetically from other populations in the Cook Islands,
any  introduction will genetically modify the small indigenous

Save Our Suwarrow  Campaign "" (SOS) campaign was launched in 1998. The
campaign  achieved what was thought to be a major breakthrough when a
newly elected Cook  Islands Government gave an undertaking the atoll
would remain a national park.  However, a subsequent government has seen
a reversal of the previous  Government.  It is hoped that by continuing
to apply pressure to  Government through publicizing the Suwarrow
plight, the SOS campaign will  convince the Cook Islands Government that
there is much more to the future of  the Cook Islands than dollars. The
Government must realise that they have been  entrusted with the task of
care-taking our environment for the future, and  should not take risks
that could lead to irreparable damage in order to gain  short term
economic benefits to a few. To show your support for the Suwarrow cause
email  , 

Kia Orana e Kia Manuia,

Anna Tiraa

(ps: please pass on to  others)

Anna Tiraa
C/- PO Box  244
Apia Samoa
  (685) 20772

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