In response to a proposal from the government of American Samoa to NOAA, Congress designated Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 1986. Reasons for the sanctuary's designation included "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 serves as the trustee for the National Marine Sanctuary System. The mission of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries is to protect treasured places in the ocean and Great Lakes.
The National Marine Sanctuaries Act (16 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.) is the organic legislation governing this office. It was the first legislation to focus on comprehensive and area-specific protection of the marine environment. National marine sanctuaries use an ecosystem-based management approach that focuses on the maintenance of high levels of biodiversity to meet the National Marine Sanctuaries Act's primary objective of resource protection. To learn more about how NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries manages national marine sanctuaries (e.g., via legislation, regulations, permits, and more) see Management 101.
Territorial Governance – American Samoa Department of Commerce
As a territorial partner and co-manager, the government of American Samoa provides a local alliance and support services to address territorial processes and coordination, as well as collaborate on joint efforts in outreach, constituency building, and cooperation in the territory. Through this partnership, 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 the American Samoa government is critical since 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. 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 has been 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 uses other types of outreach. TV and radio announcements and news interviews also help to get the sanctuary's 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 in National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, 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 one recent example of nature's power. However, the sanctuary's role becomes vital in reducing human-caused impacts. Fagatele Bay is protected by regulations 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.
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.
On October 15, 2012, modified and new regulations for National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa became effective. The regulatory changes resulted from the sanctuary's management plan review. The sanctuary's regulations are codified within the Code of Federal Regulations at 15 CFR Part 922, subpart J. They describe the sanctuary boundary, key terms, prohibited activities, management and enforcement, and sanctuary permit procedures and criteria. Some regulations apply throughout the entire sanctuary, while other regulations apply to specific areas within the sanctuary. Click here to download a pdf of the sanctuary's current federal regulations (72 KB). More information about sanctuary regulations is available here.
In response to a proposal from the American Samoa government to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Congress designated Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 1986. Among the reasons for designation was "to protect and preserve an example of a pristine tropical marine habitat and coral reef terrace ecosystem of exceptional biological productivity" (51 Federal Register [FR] 15878).
In 2012, NOAA designated an additional five protected areas within the sanctuary in addition to Fagatele Bay, and changed the name of the sanctuary to National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa (77 FR 43942).
NOAA incorporated these additional areas into the sanctuary to enhance the protection of valuable natural and cultural resources within American Samoa and to improve overall ecosystem health and resiliency by augmenting the network of marine protected areas across the territory. The addition of these areas also aims to reach a wider general audience by increasing the sanctuary presence across the territory. It also furthers local stewardship and incorporates local traditions and knowledge in resource management. Finally, NOAA incorporated these additional areas in order to increase capacity for research opportunities, including those that can improve understanding of ecosystem threats and ways to limit impacts of such threats, and to fulfill the presidential mandate to incorporate the marine areas of Rose Atoll Marine National Monument into the sanctuary.
NOAA co-manages the sanctuary with the government of American Samoa and works closely with communities adjacent to the sanctuary, all within the context of Samoan cultural traditions and practices. Sanctuary regulations clarify that NOAA has primary responsibility for sanctuary management, and that the American Samoa Government will assist NOAA in the administration of the sanctuary act (15 CFR 922.106).