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Dear Editor, 

Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary (FBNMS) has violated their verbal agreement with the Aunu’u Village Council.

There were approximately 35 delegates from NOAA; (reps from states in the U.S.) with local members of the Fagatele Bay (DOC) and the Office of Samoan Affairs that came to Aunu’u Island in October 2009, to discuss the Sanctuary development.

The agreement with the high chiefs of Aunu’u and its council was that the Sanctuary is a legitimate process, but they agreed to come back to Aunu’u for further discussion in the future, which they did not do.

Instead, you just went on your own, and submitted the architectural plan of the Sanctuary of Aunu’u, that boundarized the Ma’ama’a Cove land of Aunu’u. Don’t you think that is a totalitarianism type of process — meaning the denial of our rights?

On that same date of the 2009 meeting, I asked the question to those 35 delegates of the NOAA — “Does Fagatele Bay have the same situational circumstances as Hanauma Bay in Hawaii?” The director of those 35 delegates, said “Yes.” That means — NOAA will provide the following as you emphasized:

a)            Financial resources to run Aunu’u Sancturary will be provided;

b)            Security and Safety are a must;

c)            Boat provided by NOAA with GPS equipment;

d)            Boundaries will be established;

e)            Maintenance required for beautification; and,

f)            Above all - Aunu’u Aumaga/ personnel can be hired to take care of the sanctuary as indicated by DOC and the NOAA.

Was it a factual promise or just a myth?

Keep in mind that we are an American Democracy. This is a set beliefs that places high value on individual freedom, equality, human dignity and brotherhood, the rule of law, and an open political process.

Importantly, the rule of law supports the wishes of majority while protecting the rights of minorities. Its ideals also include the right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

For NOAA, maybe you are not aware of the “Deed of Cession” in American Samoa. The referendum agreement, signed by chiefs of Samoa and the United States since 1900, that the U.S government cannot overcome the privilege of American Samoa when it comes to “Land and Matai Title.”

We already did our own research at this place that you plan for the sanctuary, by running a tape measure from block by block underwater a few years ago. It is the richest reef area for our livelihood, especially when we do not have money to buy food. Only few Aunu’uans have jobs working for the government, the rest are on the welfare for fish products to survive.

With all due respect to the NOAA, we appreciate your concern for fish conservation and the sanctuary, but please, find someplace else for your sanctuary.

Aunu’u can live and survive on this fishing ground, now and forever. “A world without Aunu’u fish delicacies would be an Aunu’u population with its life diminished in the future.”

Why? Our island’s life characteristics for surviving and livelihood are based on our wetland taros and edible fish from the surrounding areas of Aunu’u (FANTASY ISLAND).

Thank You for your understanding.

Kitara Vaiau, Matai of Aunu’u Island/Fisherman

(Editor’s Note: Congressman Faleomavaega Eni had his hearing on the Fagatele Bay National Sanctuary expansion issue on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 that was well attended — with a 100 plus people publicly commenting on the proposal, which included Gov. Togiola Tulafono, who was one of the few who spoke in favor of it. The meeting began at 4:30 p.m and did not end until around 10:30 p.m. Samoa News will be reporting on the meeting in Tuesday’s edition. ra)