The Cook Islands environment service is to launch an urgent education programme to stem the increasing toxicity of Rarotonga's Muri Lagoon.
An Australian scientist who discovered huge levels of bacteria in streams flowing into the lagoon, last night briefed government, environment and business representatives on the pollution problem.
The acting director of the service, Tania Temata, says staff will visit pig farmers with properties upstream from the lagoon in the next few days to encourage them to keep waterways free of rubbish and livestock effluent.
Ms Temata says prosecuting farmers who continue to breach environment regulations is not a first option.
She says fining or jailing someone has a ripple-on effect throughout the tiny community.
Ms Temata says she favours community input into what should happen to persistent offenders.
"It's really good that the community is now fully aware of this issue and if the actions are taken from their end rather from a government end, the reaction from the community will be more positive rather than negative."
The acting director of the environment service.