World Ocean Day to be celebrated with annual Muri Beach Clean-up

With heavy rain postponing the sixth annual clean-up day twice, the event will instead be rolled out in smaller chunks over the next couple of weeks.

Schools, accommodation providers, and water sports groups will be taking turns removing rubbish from the lagoon shores, motu, and streams up to the main road.

“It’s about community involvement, and it’s getting easier each year,” event organiser Anne Tierney, of Muri Environment Care, said.

“The really big rubbish that had been there for a long time is gone now. The first couple of years, we had old motors and big bits of ocean debris on the outer edges of the motu to get rid of. Now, since last year, we have the kids sieve within a marked area to see what things are there.

“The lagoon is looking much better. The water is much clearer.”

About 100 people were anticipated to hit the beach at “dead low tide” on July 16, but this was moved to Saturday last week when it was forecast to rain – only for heavy downpours to postpone the event again.

A downpour was healthy for Muri Beach, Tierney said.

“There’s no way a human could do what the weather is doing.

“The beach is getting a good pounding, it’s breaking up all the white coral and making it into sand much faster, and the bottom is really swept clean with the currents. Hopefully the algae will grow very slowly this time round.”

Tierney said the clean-up celebrated World Ocean Day, a United Nations movement to “preserve the health of the ocean” which fell on June 8 this year.

The clean-up was a collaboration between Muri Environment Care and Te Ipukarea Society, Tierney working alongside TIS director Alanna Smith to organise the event.

“It’s always fun to work with them. They’re very efficient,” Tierney said.

“It’s really neat because when you’re doing it, you can see groups of people walking down the beach and chatting to each other. Hopefully they’re making new friends and refreshing old friendships while they’re there.”

Other groups involved with the event included Infrastructure Cook Islands, providing a rubbish truck; Captain Tama’s Lagoon Cruises, ferrying volunteers – including members of the Rarotonga Sailing Club and staff from Pacific Resort – to the motu; and a number of Muri businesses contributing to spot prizes.

“A lot of the people who use the lagoon are giving back, which is really nice to see.”

Children were also “so enthusiastic” about helping out, Tierney said.

“The kids these days are so aware of this kind of stuff from school. They’re getting really good information about ocean health, recycling, that kind of thing.”

To further encourage the children’s interest in the environment, Tierney had organised “three leaders” to each take a “gang of kids” to one of three designated spots along Muri Beach to sieve a one-metre-square area and catalogue the rubbish lurking in the sand.

“If we give them a group of questions about how this collection differs from that collection, we’ve got some statistics to go on for next year,” she said.

“We know that there’s a lot of damage that can be caused by these tiny, microscopic bits of plastic being ingested by fish – and, therefore, probably by us as well. Birds can actually die from eating bits that are too big and messing up their innards.

“We want the small stuff as well, not just big stuff.

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