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Manu’a traditional leaders sign in support of sanctuary expansion

Paramount Chief, Sen. Galeai M. Tu’ufuli along with eleven other Manu’a traditional leaders have signed a petition supporting the proposed expansion of the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary (FBNMS) that includes waters off Ta’u island, home to large, centuries old coral colonies.

The petition, dated Mar. 9, came after a meeting last Friday morning at the Office of Samoan Affairs conference room where Manu’a chiefs and orators on Tutuila met with sanctuary officials to hear more information on the protection of large coral heads located off the shores of Ta’u island, according to one Manu’a leader who attended the meeting but didn’t want to be identified by name.

According to NOAA, the waters surrounding Ta’u Island are home to both biologically and culturally significant resources. “Massive ‘Porites’ coral colonies, possibly the largest coral heads in the world, occur in the nearshore waters along the southwestern coast,” it says.

The largest among these coral heads is estimated to be between 360 and 800 years old, and are among the oldest known shallow water coral said NOAA, adding that the size, health and proximity of these giant corals indicate that conditions favorable to coral growth have been stable for a long time.

“We, the village council and residents of Manu’a — Fitiuta, Ta’u and Faleasao — hereby agree with ASG/ Department of Commerce and Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary program’s proposal to include Manu’a as a potential site for natural and cultural resources conservation,” says the petition.

“We look forward to working with your offices to allow fishing in this area, and continued consultation during implementation of programs and activities that bring attention to the resources and people of our community and village,” the petition states.

Besides Galeai, some of the other Manu’a leaders who signed the petition include Lefiti Pese, Ale Tifi, Aoomalo Manupo Turituri, Logoai Siaki, Sasa Ale, Upuia Mutini and T.L. Mafautia.

The petition was posted yesterday on the federal portal:

Also posted yesterday was a Mar. 7 letter from the Governor’s Coral Reef Advisory Group (CRAG) expressing support for the additional units including the “protection of the uniquely large coral communities of Ta’u [Island]”.

According to the letter signed by CRAG chairman Lelei Peau, the additional units fall under larger CRAG and territorial marine protected area (MAP) network development efforts, “specially as they relate to the conservation of coral reef ecosystems, increasing understanding and awareness of our marine environment, enhancement of Samoan culture heritage, and increasing socio-economic opportunities such as the potential development of eco-tourism.”

CRAG looks forward to actively “participating in collaborative efforts with FBNMS which provide a wealth of benefits to our coral reefs and the people of American Samoa,” according to the letter. It also says that a majority of CRAG members who attended a Feb. 9 meeting voted in favor of the expansion, which also calls for the change of the FBNMS name.