National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa
ONMS Sentinel Site, Pacific Region

view of coral reef with divers swimming in the background
Vibrant coral in the waters of American Samoa. Credit Wendy Cover, NMSAS NOAA

The National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa is comprised of six protected areas, covering 13,581 square miles of nearshore coral reef and offshore open ocean waters across the Samoan Archipelago. The sanctuary's regulations provides protection for a variety of coral and other invertebrates, fishes, turtles, marine mammals and marine plants, including some of the oldest and largest Porites coral heads in the world, along with deep water reefs, an undersea volcano, and important fishing grounds. NOAA co-manages the sanctuary with the American Samoa Government and works closely with communities adjacent to the sanctuary to support Samoan cultural traditions and practices. Scientists used a crown-of-thorns outbreak and new fishing regulations and protections in the 1970s to initiate a long-term research and monitoring project to study the recovery patterns of corals, fishes, invertebrates and marine plants on the thriving reef of Fagatele Bay. This study is one of the few long-running surveys of its type in the world and supports resource management and decision making at the sanctuary. Several species of marine mammals live year round in Samoan waters, some preferring coastal waters and others the deeper open ocean. American Samoa has experienced several natural disasters, such as hurricanes and bleaching events that had a major impact on the coral reef habitats. Interested graduate students and principal investigators should contact the Research Coordinator to discuss their research ideas prior to launching a project. Research activities may require a permit from the sanctuary.