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Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary
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Author Topic: Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary  (Read 1876 times)
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« on: March 01, 2010, 10:36:20 AM »

Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Fagatele Bay (Fahng-ah-téh-lay) is the smallest and most remote of the National Marine Sanctuaries . It is the only true tropical coral reef in the Sanctuary program. It was put on the list of recommended Sanctuaries in 1982 and later that same year was moved to the active candidate list. It was designated as a National Marine Sanctuary April 29, 1986.

Location: The Fagatele Bay Sanctuary protects 163 acres (0.25 square miles) of bay area off the southwest coast of Tutuila Island, American Samoa. One can approach Fagatele Bay either by boat from Pago Pago or Leone Bay, or by car and then follow the trail down the western wall.

Purpose: The official purpose of designating the Sanctuary is "to protect and preserve an example of a pristine tropical marine habitat and coral reef terrace ecosystem of exceptional productivity, to expand public awareness and understanding of tropical marine ecosystems; to expand scientific knowledge of marine ecosystems; to improve resource management techniques, and to regulate uses within the Sanctuary to ensure the health and well-being of the ecosystem and its associated flora and fauna" (Federal Register, 4/29/86)

Landscape: The Bay is an ancient flooded volcano. The water visibility in the bay is normally around 70 feet. The steep slopes surrounding the small bay contain some of Americas's rare paleo-tropical rainforest.

Sea Life: 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 whalesongs, 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.

Coral Reef: Fagatele Bay's fringing reef contains more than 140 species of coral and related animals and plants. The reef provides shelter and habitat for a wide variety of marine life. Over the past 30 years, Tutuila's reefs suffered a number of disasters that destroyed large parts of the coral reefs including those in Fagatele Bay. In the late 1970s, an outbreak of crown-of-thorns seastar attacked the reef, destroying over 90% of the live coral. In the early 1990s, two hurricanes battered the reef that was struggling to recover from the seastar blight. Later in the 1993-94 summer, a severe bleaching event destroyed coral and other related organisms (bleaching is a response to stress-in this case hotter than normal water-where the coral or other organism responds by expelling its symbiont zooxanthellae, a type of dynoflagellate; if the bleached state continues for more than a few weeks, the coral will die). Fortunately, Fagatele's reefs have shown remarkable resilience and new growth has recovered much of the devastated areas. This natural cycle of growth and destruction is typical of a tropical ecosystem.

Regulations: Sanctuary regulations prohibit taking invertebrates and sea turtles, as well as any historical artifacts found in the bay. Only traditional fishing methods are permitted in the inner bay. Line fishing is permitted in the outer bay only.

Fa'asamoa is often heard in American Samoa. It means the Samoan Way. The culture of Samoa is over 3,000 years old. Fa'asamoa has kept Samoans strongly nationalistic and cautious about changes that might threaten the traditional structure of their way of life. However, fa'asamoa has an inherent flexibility that allows it to withstand and absorb the ways of foreign traders, missionaries, and military forces; it is a dynamic cultural force. Perhaps more than any other Polynesian culture, Samoans try to observe the traditional ways on a daily basis.

One aspect of fa'asamoa is the ancient concept of tapu. Samoans restricted use on areas that became overstressed in order to protect their resources. With the decline in subsistence fishing in the area, many of the new generations of Samoans have lost touch with their coral reef and its diverse riches. With the decline of awareness of tapu, the traditional cultural ethics of resource management were being lost as well.

The Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary adds a new dimension to local awareness of the treasures of the marine environment and the need to protect and preserve it. By equating the sanctuary with the concept of tapu, a fresh understanding of resource protection and management emerges, one which can have vital cultural and environmental significance.
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