June 25, 2012

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The final management plan for the Fagatele (pronounced fung’-a-tell-ee) National Marine Sanctuary in American Samoa has been released. The plan updates the original 1984 management plan that the sanctuary has been operating under and expands the 0.25 square mile sanctuary by adding five distinct geographical reef areas. The areas that have been incorporated into the sanctuary include Larsen Bay, as well as waters around the Rose Atoll (Swains Island and Luliava) and the Aunu’u and Ta’u Islands.

Located in American Samoa off the southwest coast of Tutuila Island, Fagatele Bay is the smallest and most remote of all the national marine sanctuaries. Despite its small size, Fagatele Bay is thought to support the greatest diversity of marine life in the National Marine Sanctuary system. According to NOAA, the area hosts 168 species of corals, 1,400 species of algae and over 250 species of fish. Many cetaceans are also commonly spotted in the bay and in adjacent waters — Humpback whales, Sperm whales and Pacific bottlenose and spinner dolphins are found in the bay and adjacent waters.

NOAA says that the latest management plan will help offer long-term protection and conservation to this diverse area. Among the major changes within the final management plan, were changes in site-specific fishing regulations and a change in the sanctuary’s name — the name has been changed from Fagatele National Marine Sanctuary to the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa.

The final management plan took over five years to compile and was the result of careful communications between governments and local residents. “It (the final management plan) represents years of working with the local villages, chiefs, territorial programs and bot the Delegate’s and the Governor’s office to ensure that the needs and concerns of the people of American Samoa are recognized and their marine resources are protected for future generations,” said NOAA’s Pacific Islands Director of National Marine Sanctuaries Allen Tom earlier this year.

Further breakdown of the final management plan:

There were eight action plans listed within the final management plan that incorporate new and planned management strategies and activities designed to help achieve specific sanctuary goals, directly address current priority resource management issues and guide sanctuary management over the next five to ten years. Below is a list of the action plans and their primary objectives, taken from the NOAA Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary website.

1. Cultural Heritage & Community Engagement Action Plan
To promote stewardship through active engagement of sanctuary communities while incorporating Samoan culture and protecting cultural heritage and maritime heritage resources.

2. Marine Conservation Science Action Plan
To improve ecosystem-based management by providing a strong foundation of science and increasing knowledge of sanctuary marine ecosystems.

3. Climate Change Action Plan
To minimize and mitigate the impact from climate change events on coastal and marine ecosystems in sanctuary units.

4. Operations and Administration Action Plan
To outline the means and level of support necessary to successfully achieve sanctuary goals and implement the strategies and activities detailed in the other action plans.

5. Ocean Literacy Action Plan
To cultivate an informed public and enhance ocean stewardship by increasing public awareness, understanding, and appreciation of sanctuary resources in American Samoa.

6. Resource Protection & Enforcement Action Plan
To reduce existing and potential resource threats, and to prevent adverse impacts to the ecosystem.

7. Partnerships & Interagency Cooperation Action Plan
To foster and facilitate cooperation and coordination of planning and management actions.

8. Program Evaluation Action Plan
To effectively and efficiently incorporate performance measurement into sanctuary operations in order to determine the degree to which management actions are achieving sanctuary goals.

Top image: NOAA. Fagatele Bay Unit

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