In response to a proposal from the American Samoa Government to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Congress designated the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary (sanctuary) in 1986, among other reasons, "to protect and preserve an example of a pristine tropical marine habitat and coral reef terrace ecosystem of exceptional biological productivity," (49 FR 47415). Sanctuary regulations clarify that NOAA has primary responsibility for sanctuary management, and that the American Samoa Economic and Development Planning Office (now known as the American Samoa Department of Commerce or AS DOC) will assist NOAA in the administration of the sanctuary (15 CFR 922.103).
Federal Governance - NOAA
NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) serves as the trustee for the National Marine Sanctuary System. The mission of ONMS is to identify, protect, conserve, and enhance the natural and maritime heritage resources, values, and qualities of the National Marine Sanctuary System for this and future generations throughout the nation. The National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA) (16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.) is the organic legislation governing ONMS. The NMSA was the first legislation to focus on comprehensive and area-specific protection of the marine environment, and national marine sanctuaries use an ecosystem based management approach that focuses on the maintenance of high levels of biodiversity to meet the NMSA's primary objective of resource protection. To learn more about how the ONMS manages national marine sanctuaries (e.g., via legislation, regulations, permits and more) see Management 101.
Territorial Governance - AS DOC
As a territorial partner and co-manager, AS DOC provides a local alliance and support services to address territorial processes and coordination. AS DOC greatly assists sanctuary staff with joint efforts in outreach, constituency building and cooperation in the territory. Through the partnership with AS DOC, sanctuary staff are also able to coordinate efforts to reach out to local communities through the American Samoa Government's Office of Samoan Affairs, whose staff serve as liaisons between the territorial government and local residents. The local alliance with AS DOC is critical since the ONMS and Fagatele Bay sanctuary staff place a high value on partnerships with sanctuary communities and maintain great respect for fa'a-Samoa. Fa'a-Samoa, the traditional Samoan way of life, provides the cultural context for all sanctuary activities and functions. The foundation of Polynesia's oldest culture, which dates back some 3,000 years, fa'a-Samoa places great importance on the dignity and achievements of the group rather than on individual achievements. Sanctuary staff must work in a culturally appropriate manner with local communities, who may serve as sanctuary stewards and whose communally-owned lands adjacent to the sanctuary are managed by local matais (chiefs).
Management Resources and Tools
Sanctuary managers continue to nurture their relationship with the landowners adjacent to sanctuary waters, and trust that the aiga (families) will extend their stewardship to the coral reef (traditionally part of their communal lands). In addition, the sanctuary advisory council provides advice and recommendations to the superintendent on protection and management of the sanctuary. The advisory council is an effective body for drawing in public participation and building a shared understanding of sanctuary management through open discussion and collaborative efforts. The advisory council plays a critical role in management plan review and was instrumental in providing guidance on the future direction of the sanctuary.
The sanctuary uses other management tools to protect the resources. Education, research, regulation and enforcement fill the "toolbox" of sanctuary management. Each of these tools must be used appropriately. Public awareness, too, plays a major role in management; the sanctuary periodically publishes posters, brochures and other print media, distributes t-shirts and other types of "advertising". TV and radio announcements and news interviews also help to get our messages out. Enforcement works best with a knowledgeable, sympathetic and cooperative public. Ideally, if the resource users support the program goals, there will be little need for a strong enforcement presence.
As managers of the natural resources at Fagatele Bay, there is little we can do in the face of natural disasters. The September 2009 tsunami that devastated much of the island's shoreline is the latest example of nature's power. However, the sanctuary's role becomes vital in reducing human-caused impacts. Fagatele Bay is protected by regulations [Insert link to the new "regulations" page url suggested below] from destructive types of fishing including dynamite fishing and the traditional poison fishing (futu or 'ava niukini). In addition, spearfishing and fixed nets are also prohibited, and all invertebrates-including the crown-of-thorns starfish-are protected. NOAA Office of Law Enforcement and local American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources conservation officers share responsibility for enforcing the regulations at the sanctuary. Local landowners are also sanctuary enforcement partners -they are our eyes and ears at the site. Sanctuary management will continue to blend marine education, research and enforcement into an effective management package that preserves the natural and cultural resources of this special place for the Samoan community, visitors and the American people.