A Better Understanding of Coral Reef Ecosystems

Pelagic predators such as these barracuda, Sphyraena qenie, are part of the coral reef ecosystem in the U.S. Line Islands (NOAA Photo by Kevin Lino).
A team of scientists have embarked from Hawai'i on a three-month survey of coral reef ecosystems at Johnston Atoll, the U.S. Phoenix Islands, the islands of American Samoa, and the U.S. Line Islands in the tropical Pacific Ocean. The overarching objective is to better understand the coral reef ecosystems of these areas, many of which are seldom explored. The research expedition is part of a regular monitoring program, conducted by the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED), headquartered in Honolulu, Hawai'i. The expedition is supported by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program and involves extensive cooperation among NOAA scientists and research partners, including the University of Hawaii Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, San Diego State University, and the Papahānaumaokuākea Marine National Monument.

The research expedition will be carried out from February 27 to May 24, 2012 aboard the NOAA ship Hi'ialakai. Under the leadership of Chief Scientists Dr. Jill Zamzow, Dr. Bernardo Vargas-Angél, and Jamison Gove, a diverse team of researchers will be conducting multidisciplinary coral reef ecosystem surveys, assessing the status of fishes, corals, algae, marine invertebrates, and the oceanographic conditions in which these organisms exist. The scientific data collected during the three-month research expedition will enable informed and effective implementation of ecosystem-based management and conservation strategies for coral reef ecosystems, helping to ensure their protection for generations to come.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Talofa Tutuila

Aunu'u and Tutuila (left to right), photo taken by PIBHMC
By Kerry Grimshaw

After nearly a month into our cruise we have begun our work in the US Territory of American Samoa. We are conducting surveys around the island of Tutuila which is the largest and most populated of all the islands in the Territory. Tutuila has a land area of 141.81 km2(54.75 mi2) which is just slightly smaller than Washington D.C. As the third largest island in the Samoan Archipelago (Savaii & 'Upolu in Samoa are 1 & 2 respectively) it is distinctive in the South Pacific for having a large deep natural harbor.

As one of the most protected harbors in the South Pacific, Pago Pago became a point of contention when the United States gained exclusive use in 1872. However, both the British and Germans also had political and trade interests in Pago Pago. After about a decade of mounting tensions and a serendipitous cyclone, the 3countries negotiated in 1889 where Western (Independent) Samoa was ceded to the Germans, eastern Samoa went to the Americans, and the British were happy with German renunciation of Tonga, the Solomon Islands and Niue.

In April of 1900 eastern Samoa was formally annexed by the USA. Traditional rights were protected in exchange for a military base and a coaling station; however, Samoans became US Nationals, but not US citizens. Pago Pago became instrumental during World War II as the center of the Samoan Defense Group, which was the largest of the Pacific Defense Groups. As the war moved north and west, American Samoa became a strategic backwater. In the postwar era, American Samoa's military importance declined and in 1951, the Territory was transferred to the Department of the Interior, under whose jurisdiction it remains.

Until the 1960’s, American Samoa remained almost entirely traditional. After the modernization era, the subtle and restrained US presence was over. In 1977 the first elections were held for democratically elected leadership, replacing the leadership of appointed governors.

Pago Pago Harbor
Tutuila has a reef area of 36.2 km2 (14 mi2) and is home to more than 140 species of corals. Tutuila's waters are protected by the 0.7 km2 (0.3mi2) Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, as well as by the National Park of American Samoa, which covers the north-central part of the island and approximately 5 km(1.9 mi2) of coastline. Tutuila is also unique because of its extensive banks that occur 1-9 km (0.6-6 mi) offshore. On these banks CRED has conducted camera surveys in previous years and documented the presence of corals and numerous species of fish.

We’ll be working in the waters surrounding Tutuila until March 2nd when we begin our transit to Swains Island. For those of you reading from the island of Tutuila you may see us as you are out and about during this time.

1 comment:

  1. I am a student from Samoana High School in the marine science class. I am interested of joining your crew around the island.