The Nature Conservancy, NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program and seven U.S. coral reef jurisdictions completed a $13.5 million, 10-year partnership to support the effective management and protection of coral reefs. Here’s a peek at how that partnership translated to work on-the-ground and in-the-sea – and what that means for American Samoa’s reefs.
Where We Work
American Samoa is an archipelago in the central South Pacific Ocean comprised of five volcanic islands (Tutuila, Ta’u, Ofu, Olosega, Aunu’u, Nu’utele) and two coral atolls (Rose Atoll and Swains Island). The coral reefs and coasts of American Samoa are home to over 2,700 species of Indo-Pacific corals, invertebrates and fish. However, the reefs face negative impacts from local sources of pollution and sedimentation. Additionally, severe natural disturbances, including a major outbreak of crown of thorns starfish, several bleaching events and hurricanes, have impacted reef resources over the past several years.
Coral reef conservation in American Samoa is advanced by providing technical assistance and building the capacity of local government and community partners to support management efforts that increase the resilience of local reef systems. Partnership efforts focus on developing and delivering trainings to boost the effectiveness of marine protected areas (MPAs), monitoring efforts, strategic planning and advisory group development, as well as foster shared learning through regional learning exchanges.
Our work has directly beneﬁted approximately 50 square miles of coral reef habitat. Partnership efforts have provided technical support to 14 agencies and organizations, resulting in the training of 61 individuals on reef resilience principles.
- Developed strategic communications plans with eight agencies for climate change preparation projects to increase the effectiveness of work planned with local communities.
- Completed and formally adopted a Conservation Action Plan (CAP) with the village of Fanga’alu to assess the main threats to coral reef resources and develop strategies to reduce impacts from those threats.
- Trained 19 people from American Samoa in data analysis to improve the analytical expertise within resource monitoring and management programs in American Samoa (See Success Story on page 5).
- Trained 22 practitioners to create and manage effective projects. Participants learned how to manage project teams to execute coral conservation work.
- Facilitated an Organizational Management Workshop for the American Samoa Coral Reef Advisory Group (CRAG). Members and Staff assessed how CRAG functions and developed a plan for improving how CRAG supports coral reef management in American Samoa.
- Hosted a collaborative workshop on reef resilience principles—the ﬁrst of its kind in American and Western Samoa—for 32 individuals representing 13 groups from the islands. The workshop sparked a productive discussion on how a marine protected area (MPA) network could be created in the Samoan archipelago and developed recommendations to more efficiently implement the Two Samoas Initiative, a partnership to promote conservation of the shared ecosystems of the Samoan archipelago.
- Coordinated and implemented learning exchanges to share successes and lessons learned between partners, foster better understanding of community-led marine stewardship and catalyze on-the-ground action.
- Managers and environmental practitioners from Micronesia visited American Samoa to share their experience implementing the Micronesia Challenge. Participants were exposed to the concept of MPAs as mixed-use areas, community-based management approaches and the value of incorporating traditional knowledge in the management process. Participants from American Samoa visited Palau to learn about the efforts that Palauan National and State Governments and coastal communities are implementing to help support coral reef conservation and capacity building for fisheries management.
Success Story: Using Data Analysis to Protect Reefs
Data analysis is a valuable skill that enables resource managers to make informed decisions and better identify conservation priorities. Through the Partnership, resource managers in American Samoa were provided formal data analysis training and technical support. They have used their new data analysis skills to increase the effectiveness of monitoring efforts throughout the territory by re-designing the country’s coral reef monitoring program, including the development of a new water quality monitoring component, to assess watershed health from ridge to reef.
Participants were then able to use the new, more effective monitoring program design to successfully apply for watershed development funding and conduct water quality and biological monitoring in 28 watersheds around Tutuila, the main and largest island of American Samoa. In one watershed, data collected showed land-based pollution was causing poor water quality in streams, which in-turn was impacting reef health. As a result of this information, the community of Vatia implemented rain garden projects to reduce land-based pollution.
Resource managers are now working towards developing a suite of village-based report cards to share water quality data in an accessible format to help community members make informed decisions.
Alice Lawrence from American Samoa’s Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) hopes many more workshops will be held. “I’ve never seen so many Samoans rave about stats. The excitement and consistent attendance were unprecedented”, she shared. Motusaga Vaeoso, also from the DMWR, echoed Lawrence’s praise and said the analytical skills she learned through the workshop have made her work much easier and have enabled her to extract new insights from her data.
By enhancing local resource managers’ ability to collect and analyze data, Partnership efforts are supporting American Samoa to implement novel management ideas and communicate monitoring findings in ways, enabling local communities to take direct action to conserve their coral reefs.