- PICRC staff
PICRC and the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa Sister Sanctuary Exchange Visit
In December 2020, the Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) and NOAA’s Office of the Marine Sanctuaries established a sister sanctuary partnership between the Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS) and the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa (NMSAS) to build a science and education exchange. In December 2022, three members of the NMSAS team attended the PNMS Science & Monitoring Workshop in Palau. They gave insights on the research and education priorities of the NMSAS and advice for the PNMS to take into consideration. In April 2023, three members of PICRC’s outreach department went to American Samoa for a week-long exchange, where they met the NMSAS team and learned about their efforts and those of their close collaborators.
The National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa was established in 1986 with one site, and has since expanded to become the largest NOAA marine sanctuary with a total of six sites. The American Samoan people have strong cultural and historical connections to the ocean, so the NMSAS aim was to build on these connections and devise a management plan to continue protecting the reefs. During this visit, the PICRC team learned that the NMSAS works closely with different communities. They involve the Chiefs and other resource managers in discussions on research and monitoring, and provide recommendations on how to work together to ensure a healthy ocean for the American Samoan people. The NMSAS office at the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center has a dedicated visitor center with exhibits that explain their cultural ties to the reefs in the form of art and written storytelling, as well as exhibits on the six marine sanctuary sites, the effects of climate change, human threats to the ocean, and what people can do to help their conservation efforts.
The Palau team was fortunate enough to visit one of the six marine sanctuary sites, at Fogama’a Bay, where they saw how well-maintained it has been kept by the local community. They met with some of NMSAS’s partners such as the National Park Service, NOAA Observatory at Tula, the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA Weather Service, the NOAA Rainier Ship and, one school—Manumalo Academy. All these exchanges exposed the team to the different stakeholders and they saw how closely the stakeholders collaborate with NMSAS. They also gave a virtual presentation on the PNMS to more than 10 schools in American Samoa, reaching around 100 students.
PICRC Interim CEO Caryn L. Koshiba states, “We are happy that this is the start of closer collaborations and more sister-sanctuary exchanges between Palau and American Samoa. We will be expecting more members of the NMSAS team to visit Palau this August 2023 and we hope to show them our own research and outreach efforts at PICRC as well as introduce them to our close partners and collaborators. I would like to thank the NMSAS team for taking good care of our staff and we can’t wait to show them the Palauan hospitality in their upcoming visit.”