Pigs Pollute the Pacific

pig at Fakaofo, TokelauThe pig, chicken, dog, and rat entered the Pacific thousands of years ago with Polynesian navigators. The pig has been around so long it's now almost considered an indigenous animal. In Vanuatu, a curved boar's tusk is one of the best known symbols of the country. Throughout the Pacific, pork baked in underground ovens is a favorite island food.

Recently, Bill Aalbersberg of the University of the South Pacific used the Small Islands Voice Global Forum to post some intriguing results from a study on the impact of sewage on reefs in tourist areas. Researchers from the Fiji Integrated Coastal Management Project found that improper sewage disposal had led to nutrient levels several times higher than is considered safe for corals and that algae was proliferating in many areas.

Aalbersberg and colleagues estimated that hotel sewage contributed 20 percent of the nutrients while village wastes were responsible for as much as 45 percent. As modern flush toilets replace old fashioned pit latrines, more wastes are pushed through the sandy soil. The big surprise for the researchers was that piggeries were responsible for most of the remaining 35 percent of sewage entering the sea. Pig pens are often placed alongside mangroves and streams, allowing pig excrement easy access to Pacific waters.

Development teams are hoping to reduce algae growth by promoting the use of composting toilets at both resorts and villages, by upgrading sewage systems, and by improving pig farming techniques. More attention is also being paid to the preservation of wetlands which reduce the impact of human activities on the reefs.

<< Home