Vaitogi, Futiga leaders support sanctuary expansion
Village traditional leaders from Vaitogi and Futiga have filed separate petitions or letters supporting the proposed plan by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s expansion of the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, adding five new units — including Larsen Bay.
According to the NOAA draft proposal release last year, numerous comments during public scoping two years ago supported the expansion of the sanctuary into Larsen Bay, as well as making this proposed unit more accessible by land.
The bay is comprised of Fagalua and Fogama’a Bays and is bordered by Futiga and Vaitogi villages. Larsen Bay is adjacent to the sanctuary, sharing the Steps Point boundary point, and extending to the east to Sail Rock Point, said NOAA.
Several residents and some leaders of the two villages have come out in strong opposition of the plan; however, a Mar. 7 letter signed by four Vaitogi traditional leaders indicates support of the expansion to Fogama’a and Fagalua.
“We, the village council and residents of Vaitogi, hereby agree with ASG Department of Commerce & Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary program’s proposal to include Fogama’a/Fagalua as a potential site for natural and cultural resources conservation,” according to the letter signed by Gaea Perefoti Failautusi, Ulugaono W. Allen and Tagoai T. Soa. The fourth name and signature could not be clearly identified.
“We look forward to working with your offices to allow traditional fishing in Fogama’a/Fagalua and continue consultation during implementation of the program and activities that bring attention to the resources and people of our community and village,” it says.
Another petition, dated Feb.13 and addressed to Secretary of Samoan Affairs Lefiti Pese, signed by four Futiga village leaders, also supports the expansion to include Fogama’a and Fagalua. Names on the petition show Ulufale, Namu and Ernest Aetui while the fourth name could not be clearly identified.
The Futiga petition, does however, call for three issues to be addressed prior to the proposed rule being finalized — as agreed upon by both sides.
The issues are that the Larsen Bay name be changed to Fogama’a/Fagalua; expand fishing methods that can be used in the area to catch other marine resources, which cannot be caught with regular fishing line; and all issues dealing with privately owned lands on shore should be addressed with land owners.
The Futiga leaders’ petition was also accompanied by a Feb. 14 cover letter from Lefiti, who stated that upon further meetings to fully understand the proposal, the village now supports the plan. In the letter, Lefiti asks leaders to sign the petition showing their support.
The letter/petition by Vaitogi leaders was both in English and Samoan, while Lefiti’s cover letter as well as the Futiga leaders petition are both in Samoan.
Comment period for the proposed expansion closed last Friday and all comments and letters are posted on the federal portal, “www.regulations.gov”.
To see the postings, enter NOAA-NOS-2011-0243 in the keyword search.