Faleasao residents reject Fagatele expansion plan
While Faleasao, Manu'a residents are "rejecting" the inclusion of waters around Ta’u island in the proposed expansion of the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary (FBNMS) the Manu'a matai that heads up ASG's Office of Samoan Affairs says the management plan will provide numerous benefits to the people of American Samoa for generations to come.
A petition, signed by 43 Faleasao residents ranging from ages 20 to 74, was submitted last week to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“We, the citizens of Manu’a islands residing in the village of Faleasao... are hereby rejecting the Government of American Samoa and the federal government’s decisions to reserve the coastal areas of Manu’a under any ‘marine protected areas’ for sanctuaries or any other purposes without consulting our full support [sic],”reads the petition's preamble.
However, Secretary of Samoan Affairs Lefiti Atiulagi Pese who signed off on the Office of Samoan Affairs comments submitted to NOAA, said the FBNMS management plan “highlights the Samoan culture and develops programs that engage resource users and promotes local stewardship”. He also said the additional units added to the sanctuary can assist in promoting economic development and serve as a forum to highlight these special marine areas and take that message to the region, the nation and the world.
“The sanctuary could promote a variety of recreational activities”, thus attracting tourists from across the U.S. and around the world coming here to see these special places, he said.
Meanwhile the Fagatele Bay Sanctuary Advisory Council, in a Jan. 5 letter to FBNMS superintendent Gene Brighouse, offered recommendations that were approved by the Council during a recent meeting.
Among the suggestions, are the extension of the comment period - which ended Jan. 6; additional outreach with the residents and village councils in the community; additional communications with some of the partner agencies that are involved and impacted by this decision; and revisit site selection incorporating marine protected areas (MPA) design and biological and socioeconomic data.
“There must be a way to recognize the unique social structure in American Samoa and incorporate it into the [FBNMS] management plan,” Advisory Council chairman Dean Hudson said in the letter.