[Coral-List] American Samoa moving towards complete protection of big fishes

Tupper, Mark (WorldFish) M.Tupper at CGIAR.ORG
Wed Aug 29 20:57:11 EDT 2007

Dear Chuck and list,

This is good to hear. Just thought I would add that in addition to reef
sharks, last year Palau implemented a complete moratorium on fishing for
humphead wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) and bumphead parrotfish
(Bolbometopon muricatum). Initially the moratorium was to last 6 months,
but so far the President has kept the moratorium in place until a
thorough assessment of the status of these large, vulnerable reef fishes
can be conducted.

Mark Tupper
Scientist - Coral Reefs
ICLARM - The WorldFish Center

-----Original Message-----
From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
[mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Charles
Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2007 8:14 AM
To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject: [Coral-List] American Samoa moving towards complete protection
ofbig fishes

American Samoa moving towards complete protection of big fishes

American Samoa might become the first territory to give complete
protection to all large species of reef fishes in all seasons throughout
the territory. At the recent US Coral Reef Task Force meeting in
American Samoa (20-23 August), Governor Togiola Tulafono announced that
the Government of American Samoa is beginning the process of protecting
the big fishes (humphead wrasses, bumphead parrotfishes, giant grouper,
giant trevallies, and six species of sharks). The local Samoan
population expressed themselves with splendid eloquence at two public
hearings in April 2001 in protest of the depletion of big fishes by a
small group of commercial fishermen using high tech nightlights and
scuba. These big fishes are now rare and therefore they are especially
vulnerable to additional harvest. Because of this, Ray Tulafono,
Director of the Division of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR), will
begin a process of hearings and consultations, working towards placing
complete protection for the big fishes listed above.

Consideration of protection of big fishes is based on strong scientific
evidence. Doug Fenner, Acting Chief Biologist at DMWR, working on a NOAA
Coral Reef Monitoring Grant, had been diligently compiling information
on the depletion of big reef fishes around American Samoa, reviewing all
the available scientific information from research at DMWR, from other
scientists in the territory, and from the research of visiting
scientists over the years. The most compelling scientific support for
this decision came from a massive report under review at this time (R.
Brainard et al. 2007 Coral Reef Ecosystem Monitoring Report for American
Samoa: 2002-2006. NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center Special
Report NMFS PIFSC. 504 pp). Replicate surveys (2002, 2004, 2006) around
the American Samoan, Hawaiian, and Marianas Archipelagoes, as well as
isolated islands such as Wake, Palmyra, Kingman Reef, Jarvis, Baker,
Howland, consisted of  tow-board transects and visual benthic transec
ts. The independent survey methods both clearly demonstrated an inverse
correlation between human population sizes and the presence of big
fishes of all species.  Ray Tulafono reviewed the evidence with the DMWR
biologists and all agreed these species need to be protected because
they are rare.

This latest action is consistent with other responsible measures by the
Government of American Samoa. In 2000 and Executive Order (EO) by the
Governor banned collection of  "live rock" for export to the aquarium
market. In 2001, an EO banned scuba-assisted fishing. In 2003, an EO was
given to protect sea turtles and marine mammals in territorial waters.
This EO reiterated the need for protection and public education
regarding these federally protected endangered species. In 2003, another
EO was given to ban shark finning in territorial waters.

Pacific islanders live close to their resources and therefore have a
relatively clear perception of the status of the surrounding marine
life. A number of island cultures around the tropical Pacific have
traditions of responsible resource management. I have heard that Palau
now protects all of its reef sharks because tourism is an important part
of its economy. Niue protects humphead wrasses. Queensland, Australia
(the largest Pacific island), fully protects humphead wrasses and also
groupers greater than 100 cm because of their low natural abundances and
potential threat from overexploitation. Queensland is also considering
additional protection of nearshore sharks. But as far as I know,
American Samoa is the first to work towards complete protection of all
their ten largest species of reef fishes.

Chuck Birkeland

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