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NOAA Technical Report: A Biogeographic Assessment of the Samoan Archipelago

National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science

Coral Reef Conservation Program

Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Office of National Marine Sanctuaries


NOAA Study Finds Over 50 Important Areas of Coral and Fish in Samoan Archipelago

Oct. 28, 2011
Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary

The tropical beach and jungle at the end of the trail to Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, American Samoa.

A team of NOAA scientists have issued the first broad-scale biogeographic report to assess the Samoan Archipelago. They identified 51 regional areas of high coral and fish abundance. In addition, scientists found that less than 10 percent of coral reef ecosystems are located in marine protected areas.

Crown of thorns starfish devouring coral

Crown of thorns starfish devouring coral at Palolo Deep Marine Reserve, Samoa.

The report provides valuable marine resource data for the current Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary's management plan review. According to the Governor of American Samoa in remarks made during the October U.S. Coral Task Force Meeting, this report "serves as a model for other parts of the Pacific."

A Biogeographic Assessment of the Samoan Archipelago examines the regional ocean climate, distribution of reef fish and coral communities, and the biological connectivity among the islands of Samoa, American Samoa, and their island neighbors as well as the extent of existing marine conservation areas. Additional findings from the study include:

"This is a comprehensive approach for evaluating marine ecosystems because it tells people where important habitats and biological communities are, why they are there, and how interconnected they are," said Matt Kendall, NOAA marine biologist and lead author of the report.

The Samoan Archipelago lies in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago is comprised of a chain of volcanic islands, seamounts, and coral atolls and is divided into two countries: Samoa and American Samoa. Despite their close proximity and shared resources, management decisions and prior assessments in the region have typically been split along the international political boundary between Samoa and American Samoa.

The research was conducted in collaboration with scientists from Samoa and American Samoa, and prepared by NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) with input from more than 20 scientists and managers from across NOAA. It was funded by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Coral Reef Conservation Program, and NCCOS.