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DMWR marine debris removal project begins in Fagasa

The Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) started their Marine Debris Removal project this past Tuesday, in Fagasa Bay, by removing debris and anything else in the deeper parts of the bay’s waters that didn’t belong there.

It was announced at the end of last year, that a survey of the sites around the island, was being conducted before removal began. The project was a continuation of their coastal and marine cleanup project following the 2009 tsunami, which was when a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris team from Hawaii came down to help remove debris washed onto the reefs.

In December of 2009 following the tsunami, the NOAA Marine Debris team removed over four tons of debris from the marine environment.

“The Marine Debris Removal efforts were initiated by DMWR and Moon Contractors on Monday Feb. 28 in Fagasa, with work also being carried out on Wednesday,” said DMWR Project Coordinator Alice Lawrence. “The divers worked in the outer bay at around 90ft and removed material, roofing and  housing appliances. There is more work to be done in the shallower areas closer to the village, and will be carried out over the next few days.”

Lawrence explained that the work is part of a marine debris removal project that the DMWR was awarded a grant for through NOAA-National Marine Fisheries Service grant to remove the remaining debris around the island of Tutuila following the 2009 tsunami.

“A large amount of debris still remains in Fagasa, Tula and also along the West side of the island from Poloa to Leone. Most of this includes roofing, tires and household goods. Other areas where marine debris exists includes Utulei, Aunu’u, Aua, Matu’u and Auto. Moon divers and DMWR will continue the removal efforts at these sites over the next few weeks,” said Lawrence.

The project also includes a community-based cleanup effort to:

1)   Address marine and coastal trash around Tutuila through community cleanup events by specific village-based ‘Trash Free Territory’ groups, with communities and schools to adopt ten areas around Tutulila.

2)   Raise awareness about the sources, types and impacts of coastal and marine trash in American Samoa.

3)   Recommend best practices to protect the coastal and marine environment in American Samoa.

Samoa News spoke with CEO and President of Moon Divers Howard Dunham who said, “Right now we are doing the tsunami cleanup job, by doing the deep part of the dives first and eventually working our way to the shallow parts to be on the safe side,” said Dunham.

“So far, the main things that we’ve pulled out of the water are clothing, cans, bottles and tin roofing. During the tsunami, the waves knocked a lot of the houses deep, where the current goes and that is where this stuff has been sitting since. The more we get into the areas that were affected by the tsunami, the more we are going to start finding bigger debris like air conditioners, tires and a lot of bigger household appliances. We’ve seen them already. They are there, but we have not gotten to them yet. But eventually, we will,” Dunham said.

Lawrence would like the public to know if they wish to find out more about the Marine Debris Removal project or the community-based cleanup effort, to contact her at the DMWR office in Fagatogo at 633-4456.