American Samoa Residents Work to Preserve Fagatele Bay

Joseph Mao
Joseph Mao

FAGATELE BAY, Samoa (KHNL) -- It's the smallest and most remote of the 13 National Marine Sanctuaries. Yet Fagatele Bay in American Samoa boasts some of the highest marine life diversity.

It's an incredible place.

And we discover how the people of American Samoa are working to protect their sacred earth -- and their way of life.

More than 200 species of coral live within Fagatele Bay, providing habitat for at least 271 species of fish. And while natural disasters used to be the greatest threat to this marine ecosystem, recently there's a new enemy - humans.

"There are a lot of problems, people are polluting the oceans," said Joseph Mao, a Leone High School junior. "And illegal fishing methods. Some people use dynamite and kill a certain area, but what they don't know is that they're also killing coral reefs."

And those reefs sustain the livelihood for the majority of the American Samoa population. Without the reefs, many problems will surely follow.

"Consequences of that are large number of fishes will die, and it'll be bad for pacific islanders because we depend on the ocean for food and protection. As you can see there's only small waves, but I'm betting without the reefs we'd have big waves hitting our beaches," said Mao.

But the national oceanic and atmospheric administration in American Samoa have taken a progressive step forward. They're teaching their youth, the importance of keeping marine and coastal ecosystems healthy.

"We have them educate their folks and provide awareness about opportunities of protecting resources and also give them a launch pad to feed their interest and give them career paths in resource management or marine biology," said Gene Brighouse, Superintendent of Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

The sanctuary office realize they lack the resources necessary to enforce regulations around the clock, so their hope is that education will allow individuals to share in the stewardship of the ocean.

"One person can make a change, just educate the public about coral reefs to us and future generations, and just mainly educate them."

But education can only do so much, it's the application of the knowledge which will make the difference.

"It's good to have education, but if they don't have any behavioral change, it's really a fruitless effort."

In the future, scientists at the bay plan to monitor the coral, focusing on both the living and physical elements of the reef.