Representatives from the National Park Service of American Samoa and chiefs from the Fagasa Village Council were at the Department of Marine Wildlife Resources in Fagatogo yesterday to sign a cooperative agreement with DMWR director Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga that officially designates a portion of Fagasa’s ocean waters as a “no-take zone.” [photo: B. Chen]

A cooperative agreement that closes off a certain area of Fagasa’s ocean and designates it as a “no-take zone” was signed yesterday between Fagasa village, the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) and the National Park Service (NPS).
Fagasa now becomes only the second village in the history of American Samoa to ever sign a cooperative agreement of such magnitude — Fagamalo village is the only other one in the program.
DMWR Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga called yesterday’s event a “milestone” and noted that while there are number of villages who are participating in the community-based fisheries program with DMWR, those agreements are only for a period of one year. However, Fagamalo and Fagasa are locked in for the next 5-10 years.
“This is huge. It is something that is beneficial not only for Fagasa but for the territory as a whole,” Matagi-Tofiga said.
Fagasa chief Atuatasi Seigafo told everyone in attendance yesterday that the decision to sign the agreement “was not an easy one,” added that it took months and a lot of discussion amongst the Fagasa Council of Chiefs to reach a decision.
Atuatasi Talosaga echoed the same sentiment and reminded everyone that ‘alia fishing boats are allowed to use the Fagasa boat ramp to get their crafts in and out of the water, but fishing in the designated no take zone of Fagasa is strictly forbidden.
Matagi-Tofiga said that anyone caught fishing in the designated no-take zone will be cited by their office and they will end up in court. In addition, perpetrators could also face a separate citation from the village itself.
NPS superintendent Jim Bacon expressed his satisfaction with the signing of the agreement and said it couldn’t have happened at a better time, as NPS is celebrating its 25 years of service in American Samoa this week.
“This shows the foresight and wisdom of Samoan people in preserving and protecting what is theirs,” he said.
Matagi-Tofiga explained that the portion of the Fagasa ocean that is included in the agreement falls right below an area belonging to the NPS, hence the federal agency’s involvement.
She expressed her relief with the new designation in Fagasa and explained her office can now aggressively work on protecting and preserving the marine life in the area, as their divers were able to collect over 1,000 crown of thorns starfish in a matter of days that were eating away at the coral in the area.
Matagi-Tofiga said what most people don’t understand is that no-take zones are made to preserve marine life and enable them to grow. She said the protected area will cause fish and other marine life to reproduce, and because no fishing is allowed, the numbers will increase tremendously.
From there, the growth will result in a “spill over” that will flow outside of the designated area where people can fish and enjoy the abundance of marine life.
Other villages that may be interested in the program can contact DMWR at 633-4456


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