SE16-01: Samoa Researchers Join the NOAA Samoa Archipelago Fisheries Research Cruise

The final leg of SE16-01, the Samoa Archipelago Fisheries Research Cruise, took place around the islands of Upolu, Manono, and Savai’i, Samoa.  During this leg, researchers from 2 Samoa agencies, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MNRE) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) joined the cruise.  Both agencies brought their own research agendas to the cruise but also assisted the NOAA researchers in their mission.

Figure 1. NOAA and MNRE researchers conduct coral bleaching survey using snorkel.

Figure 1. NOAA and MNRE researchers conduct coral bleaching survey using snorkel.

MNRE assigned 2 researchers to conduct coral bleaching and seagrass surveys.  Coral bleaching surveys by MAF and NOAA researchers took place via snorkel at 23 sites around Savai’i and Upolu (Fig 1).  Preliminary findings indicate:

  • the reef slope is not as affected by bleaching as the reef flat:
    • reef slope = 10% bleached with 10% severity and primarily Pocillopora species
    • reef flat – 20% bleached with 25% severity and primarily Acropora (Fig. 2)
  • the 2015 bleaching event was more severe (60-70% bleached corals) then the current event.
  • in general, Samoa does not appear to be experiencing bleaching as severe as other places in the South Pacific (e.g. GBR) however, it is important to note that there is minor bleaching related to increased water temperature.
Figure 2. Bleaching of Acropora on the east side of Savai’i. Notice the bleaching of the branch tips.

Figure 2. Bleaching of Acropora on the east side of Savai’i. Notice the bleaching of the branch tips.

MNRE also conducted a seagrass snorkel survey around Manono tai Island.  The entire island was surveyed in one day (Maria Satoa is an extreme seagrass snorkel surveyor) (Fig. 3)!  Preliminary findings indicate:

  • confirmed 2 species of seagrass around the island (Halophila ovalis and Syringodium isoetifolium)
  • both species were found in shallower water but Syringodium isoetifolium was less abundant in deeper water
  • the SW side of the island had the greatest seagrass density (90% coverage) and the SE had the lowest density(2%)
  • both species on the western-most point of the island had cyanobacteria growing on the leaves (Fig.4)
Figure 3. MNRE staff surveying the seagrass beds and collect samples around Manono tai Island.

Figure 3. MNRE staff surveying the seagrass beds and collect samples around Manono tai Island.

Figure 4. NOAA and MNRE researchers consult about cyanobacteria growing on seagrass leaves.

Figure 4. NOAA and MNRE researchers consult about cyanobacteria growing on seagrass leaves.

MAF supplied a large amount of fishing ‘local knowledge’ and provided many staff members for NOAA operations.  They participated in bottomfishing operations from small boats, spearfishing, and the 2 MNRE surveys (Fig. 5).  At the end of each day they jumped in and assisted with the tedious and sometimes messy fish processing.  They also took the opportunity to search for many of the nearshore and offshore fish aggregating devices (FADs).  Unfortunately, only 1 of the nearshore FADs and none of the offshore FADs were still in place.

Figure 5. MAF staff participating in the various SE16-01 operations.

Figure 5. MAF staff participating in the various SE16-01 operations.

Over the last 10 days the ship’s complement was exposed to many aspects of Samoan culture.  We learned how to shred coconuts, the names of Samoan fish and fishing techniques and our vocabulary greatly expanded ;).  It’s been an honor and privilege to work with the Samoa researchers (Fig. 6) and we look forward to many more collaborative efforts.  For more on this collaborative effort, check out:

http://www.samoaobserver.ws/en/13_04_2016/local/4882/Local-scientists-benefit-from-international-project.htm

Fa’afetai.

Figure 6. MAF staff, keeping things safe!

Figure 6. MAF staff, keeping things safe!

For a cruise overview, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 1 – Outreach event with American Samoa Community College Students, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 2 – Secretary of the Office of Samoan Affairs, District Governor of Manu’a, and District Governor of American Samoa East District visit the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette in Pago Pago, American Samoa, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 3 – Nightlight fishing for atule in American Samoa, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 4 – Bottomfishing for samples, click here.

To read about the SE16-01 Blog 5 – Spearfishing for samples, click here.

 

 

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