Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary in American Samoa is the smallest, yet one of the most important Marine sanctuaries as it is home to more fish and marine mammals than any other marine sanctuary. It also provides a natural food source for sharks and other predators of the ocean.
Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary comprises a fringing coral reef ecosystem nestled within an eroded volcanic crater on the island of Tutuila, American Samoa. This smallest and most remote of all the National Marine Sanctuaries is the only true tropical reef in the program. Hence, why it is also one of the most protected and beautiful.
Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary is completely contained in the 0.25 square miles (0.65 km2) of the bay. The land surrounding the bay resides in the hands of the families who have lived near the bays slopes for thousands of years. Fortunately, there is little development in the watershed and the one reliable stream that empties near the beach runs clear and clean.
Fagatele Bay is a vibrant tropical reef marine ecosystem, filled with all sorts of brightly-colored tropical fish including parrot fish, damselfish and butterfly fish, as well as other sea creatures like lobster, crabs, sharks and octopus. From June to September, Southern humpback whales migrate north from Antarctica to calve and court in Samoan waters. Visitors can hear courting males sing whale songs, which the whales may be using to attract mates. Several species of dolphin, as well as threatened and endangered species of sea turtles, such as the hawksbill and green sea turtle are frequently seen swimming in the bay as well. Recreational activities such as diving, snorkeling, and fishing can be enjoyed at Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Fagatele Bay provides a home to a wide variety of animals and plants that thrive in the protected waters of the bay. The coral reef ecosystem found in the Sanctuary contains many of the species native to this part of the Indo-Pacific biogeographic region. Turtle, whales, sharks and the giant clam all find refuge in this protected area.
Fagatele Bay contains a pristine coral reef area that is an outstanding example of an Indo-Pacific coral reef ecosystem. Containing hundreds of species of fish, corals and other reef denizens, Fagatele Bay also bears the scars of some recent and severe natural disasters.
The National Marine Sanctuary Program supports research in all of its 14 sites. Research plays a role in management by supplying information needed to make resource protection decisions based on hard scientific data. Fagatele Bay's most important research project spans over a decade. In the late 1970s, millions of Acanthaster planci or crown-of-thorns starfish (alamea), a coral eating animal, ate their way through Tutuila's reefs. More than 90 percent of all the living corals were destroyed. At the time, Fagatele Bay was not a National Marine Sanctuary, but this disaster propelled the decision for the site's designation.
The National Marine Sanctuary Program protects and preserves nature and local culture. The program is found in areas of special significance such as the oceans and Great Lakes of the United States. There are 14 sanctuaries in the program ranging from Stellwagen Bank off Cape Cod to the Channel Islands in southern California. All manage their precious resources through a combination of education, research, long-term monitoring, regulation and enforcement.
Many different types of fish also call this reef home, and as such, many biologists and marine researchers attempt to correlate with the local government in an effort to find new species within the local waters. Many new species have been found, but as it is a marine sanctuary, fish or other marine animals cannot be removed from the ecosystem. Scientists, headed up by Dr. Charles Birkenland, used this natural disaster as a focus of their long-term research: to follow the recovery of a coral reef. Because corals grow slowly, the research team chose a multi-year cycle of data collection. Beginning in 1985, and again in 1988, 1995, 1998, 2001 and 2004, the team amassed information on coral, fishes, invertebrates and marine plants. This database is unique for Samoa and the study is one of the few long-running surveys of its type in the world
Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary was designated in 1986 in response to a proposal from the American Samoa Government to the National Marine Sanctuary Program. The sanctuary sponsors education programs, such as the EnviroDiscoveries Camp, which is an outdoor activity and learning camp for 9 to 12 year olds. Scientific programs range from a continuing resource assessment survey, begun in 1985, to coral reef monitoring. Sanctuary regulations prohibit taking invertebrates and sea turtles, as well as historical artifacts. Only traditional fishing methods are permitted in the inner bay.
The sanctuary makes a special effort to work with the American Samoan community with outreach programs for all ages. The sanctuary co-sponsors a summer environmental education program for 9- to 12-year-old children. These programs explore the marine life in the bay, including ancient reef-dwellers and solar-powered clams, teaching ways to protect the resources there. Samoan cultural events and general community outreach/education programs are also run year-round.
The sanctuary also provides guided tours of the area, allows any and every student to come on fieldtrips, for which they provide educational guides. They also give emphasis on the cultural aspects of the reefs and the wildlife so as to combine ones culture with the scientific knowledge that is so neccisary to them. They also help the local education by organising projects that the High schoolers on the island can take part in to further emphasis the necessity of the National Marine Sanctuary.
The American Samoans are among the last remaining true Polynesians, excepting, of course, the Hawaiians, the Maoris, the Tongans, and the Tahitian peoples. Despite the strong influence of western industrializing culture, the American Samoans, more than other Pacific Islanders, seem to hold more firmly to their ancient tradition than any of the other Polynesian cultures.
The culture of Samoa is over 3,000 years old. The term fa'asamoa, meaning the Samoan way of life, is often heard in American Samoa. It is an integral part of Samoan society because Fa'asamoa has kept Samoans conscious of the Samoan Saga and cautious about changes that might threaten the traditional structure of their society. One aspect of fa'asamoa is the ancient concept of tapu, which is the concept the Samoans put into play when they restricted the use of areas that had become overstressed in order to protect their resources and the local wildlife.
The nearby secluded sanctuary adds a new dimension to local awareness of the treasures of the marine environment and the need to protect and preserve it as is in the best interests of the local peoples. By combining the sanctuary with the concept of tapu, a fresh understanding of resource protection and management conservation is given to the people. Another important aspect of fa'asamoa is the emphasis on family. Samoan tradition revolves around the aiga, the extended family. For the aiga to exist and function, every member plays a part in contributing to the welfare of the group. At the head of each aiga is the matai, a position which connotes authority. The matai is responsible for the well-being of the family as well as for its representation in the village and district councils. Several matai rankings are intertwined throughout the village systems which result in complex traditional and political hierarchies.
Grouper: Cephalopholis or Epinephelus
- Along with several other types. This is one of the more common marine animals.
^ Endangered Species List
Nancy Daschbach is Fagatele Bay's on-site manager. Americorps volunteers assist the outreach program. Staff members are American Samoa Government employees based in Pago Pago, Samoa and operate through a cooperative agreement between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and American Samoa's Economic and Development Planning Office, as well as the National Marine Sanctuary Association. The volunteers typically work for 3 months and then take the rest of the time off, but a volunteer can work enough to become a paid worker for the NMSA or even take a Manager position at another Marine Sanctuary.