Over 30 representatives from American Samoa including resource managers, scientists and local community members met for two days (May 26-27, 2015) in Utulei, American Samoa to share knowledge about past, current and future marine research in the American Samoa Archipelago. Seven sessions were held with 3-4 talks per session on topics related to fisheries, ecosystems, community involvement, understanding and addressing threats, and protected species. The sessions included both presentations and discussions.
Some of the highlights of the discussion included recommendations for:
- Prioritize parrotfish life history analysis
- Spawning aggregations and periods
- Albacore density in American Samoa Exclusive Economic Zone and time of year
- Bottomfish stock assessments
- A lot of stock assessment and life history data are in the queue at PIFSC, but lacking manpower to get final results
- Integration of different data: connectivity and fisheries data
- Nearshore ocean current modeling
- More work on nearshore connectivity
- Understanding connectivity at a fairly fine scale
- Identification of areas that are more resilient (climate change, etc.)
- Looking at satellite data and productivity (ChlA, SST). Correlate with fishery data, monitoring data and connectivity survey.
- Look at the environmental variables for the akule fishery
- How do you engage and sustain community involvement? A. community visits every month. Schedule village meetings with the village mayors and chiefs on village councils. Community outreach every quarter and annual village council meetings.
- MPA performance evaluation “score card” (including socioeconomic, biological and institutional) is being developed for the AS system. There should also be some assessments of federally managed areas. This would be to address some of the fishermen’s concerns that maybe they weren’t completely included in the process or that some of the regulations are unfavorable to them.
- Super Alias. Developing better boats that can go beyond the current measures (50 nm) will be a huge change. This will result in feeding the local folks and having the capability of exporting fish to Hawaii and the mainland. The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) is working on this, compare to PIFSC research (economically viable).
- Need research on awareness of allowable and prohibited activities for MPAs. There are several types of MPAs in American Samoa, so getting input from people about their awareness in terms of what is allowed within MPAs. Include this aspect in future research studies.
- Continue to develop socioeconomic factors of communities, like where communities are getting their food. Is it from the ocean? Is it from the land? Are they government dependent?
- Marine Protected Areas – There is a data need for enforcement and compliance. How often is enforcement going on? Are people actually complying with regulations? Bio-monitoring is less meaningful without enforcement information.
- The territory is relying heavily on imported goods. Is this because there aren’t enough fish to sustain our population? Is the fish population declining?
- Identify carrying capacity of Tutuila (population, water, etc.)
Understanding and Addressing Threats
- More research into the juvenile Crown of Thorns starfish (COTs)
- Genetic study of COTs
- High pollution a contributing factor to coral reef degradation (littering, septic system issues, etc.)
- Lack of COTs predators in American Samoa
- More research into factors that contribute to coral bleaching (e.g. climate change, ocean acidification)
- Climate change is primary contributing factor to coral bleaching.
- Faga‘alu Bay has strong currents so the water circulation patterns likely affect where the nutrients are concentrated (northern side of Bay).
- More research in Vatia and Pala Lagoon, looking at water quality, identifying pollution, and finding solutions to clean up the area.
- Are there studies on active removal of coral anomalies / tumors? A. Research in Fagatele Bay – removed anomalies, where they were removed they didn’t come back, but they would still pop up elsewhere on coral.
- Research on certain types of fish (herbivores, bottom feeders) – should we be protecting certain species more than others? Are there certain species that are more important in American Samoa?
- Diseases in the system are natural. Reefs that are stressed are more likely to get disease, so keeping the reefs clean and healthy is a growing concern.
- Understanding the life history of American Samoa reef fish would be helpful to better protect and make management decisions about herbivores that are important to reef resilience
- Need field work that looks at local catch limits within the territorial waters. Fish size should be regulated because it hasn’t been done yet. Fish size has been identified as a priority for the territory. Need collaboration with scientists on size limits.
- American Samoa has a huge need for social science.
- Critical habitat research needs to be done. Sand mining has been happening a lot lately, which affects nesting.
- Severe lack of stock assessments of cetaceans for Odontocetes in this area. It isn’t easy to do logistically. Upcoming cruises might want to try their best to consider setting up survey methods for that. High incidents of false killer whale depredation, etc. with the long line fishery.
- What is the timeline for mapping ESA-listed corals?
- Longline fisheries have had quite a few incidents of silky shark interactions. This is a species of concern for SPC. There may be an opportunity to explore more work while looking into shark populations in Samoa as well.
Discussions on potential research projects were initiated. A few examples of the top priorities include:
- Perceptions of community on establishment of MPAs, MPA terms/types (allowed vs. prohibited activities), etc.
- Species-specific connectivity studies (by genetics)
- Disease and Contaminants: Follow-up on Witall studies on landfill inputs into nearshore marine environment (especially Fagatele Bay nearby Futiga landfill)
- Shallow near-shore marine environment mapping (using LiDAR data)
- Determine locations, seasons and periods of spawning aggregations
- Study ocean current models for connectivity studies
- More contaminant and nutrient work in Vatia (1) H2O quality/LBSP; (2) Management Plan
- Coral bleaching adaptation responses, find resistant/ resilient colonies or areas
- More research on juvenile COTS (where are they and when they recruit to reefs)
- Understanding factors that make a successful MPA (seeding / spillover) biological and socioeconomic
- What is the carrying capacity of the island? Especially related to landfills and clean water?
For more information about other activities from the PIFSC Science Operations Division, browse recent blog posts.