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NOAA scientists visiting to set up oceanographic buoy to measure enviro conditions

Two scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, Florida will be visiting the territory during the week of Feb. 17 to conduct a site survey.


This was made known during the first ever Media Coffee Chat hosted by the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa (NMSAS) last Wednesday at the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center.


The survey is to find an appropriate spot for the deployment of an oceanographic buoy that will measure local environmental conditions.


According to the NMSAS, the scientists will need to scuba dive for 2-3 days at coral reef sites around the islands of Tutuila and Aunu’u. During these dives, the scientists will make measurements of depth and bottom type to determine potential sites to anchor the buoy.


Lt. Charlene Felkley, Marine Operations Coordinator for the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa (NMSAS), said yesterday the scientists are paying for the boat but since there are only two of them coming, there will be extra space on the vessel.


Therefore, NMSAS is coordinating with the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) about getting local divers on the boat to dive alongside the scientists, to help monitor, assess, and eradicate the Crown of Thorns.


Over 2,000 Crown of Thorn (COT) starfish were killed in the territory last year during a collaborative effort between the National Park of American Samoa, DMWR, and the NMSAS.


Crown of Thorns pose a threat to coral reefs because they prey on coral tissue. Several years ago, COT starfish had infested waters within the local Sanctuary, but the problem was later resolved. However, the threat has once again raised its ugly head and currently efforts are being made to eradicate the infestation.


“The scientists were gracious enough to let us put some local divers on the boat with them — free of charge — to address the local issue we are having with the Crown of Thorns and we are very appreciative of that,” Felkley said. “It’s just a matter of everyone working together for the good of the territory and its people.”


The oceanographic buoy is not expected to be deployed until 2015, at the earliest.


The project is part of the NMSAS’s February Science Operations agenda.