[Coral-List] American Samoa now protects all sharks plus 3 large coral reef fish species

Douglas Fenner douglasfennertassi at gmail.com
Thu Nov 15 15:12:32 EST 2012

I'd just like to add that credit for the new regulations in American Samoa
go to a lot of people, first and foremost the governor, Togiola Tulafono,
and the director of Marine & Wildlife, Ray Tulafono.  They made the
decision to do this, and it would not have happened without them.
     Many people in the territory helped with this, and a team from the Pew
Charitable Trusts campaigned here in support of doing this, for which we
are most grateful.  There is more on the new regulations on their website,


Dept. Marine & Wildlife Resources, American Samoan Government
PO Box 7390
Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA

On Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 4:15 PM, Douglas Fenner <
douglasfennertassi at gmail.com> wrote:

> **American Samoa protects all sharks, plus three species of large coral
> reef fish in its waters*
> The Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources has promulgated new
> regulations protecting these rare marine species which took effect on
> November 11, 2012. American Samoa has acted to protect all sharks plus
> three species of large coral reef fish in all the waters of the territory
> of American Samoa.  It is now illegal to catch or even possess:
> 1.                        Humphead Wrasse;
> 2.                        Bumphead Parrotfish;
> 3.                        Giant Grouper; or
> 4.                        any species of shark anywhere in the territory
> or territorial waters.
> Territorial waters extend 3 nautical miles from the shoreline.  All sizes
> and ages and any parts are fully protected, at all times, everywhere in the
> territory.  These regulations are the most powerful protection for sharks
> in the USA, and provide the only protection for the other three reef fish
> within the USA, except for where all fish are protected.
> Because possession of all parts of these species is illegal, shark fins
> are illegal in the territory, including transshipping sharks or fins.  Because
> none of these fish can be brought into the territory, the protection of
> this regulation may extend to nearby waters where fishers would bring their
> catch into the territory.  These fish were protected first with an
> Executive Order of the Governor, and then additionally by these newly
> adopted fishing regulations by the Dept. Marine & Wildlife Resources.
> A recent scientific paper published by NOAA’s CRED division in Hawaii
> estimated that the territory has just 4-8% of the sharks it would have if
> there were no people (Nadon et al. 2012).  Reef sharks are slow growing,
> late maturing, and produce very few pups each year, and thus can not
> sustain anything but the lightest fishing pressure.  The primary reason
> for the low number of sharks is fishing, though other effects of human
> activities, like sediment, nutrient and chemical runoff may contribute by
> damaging fish habitat, and the number of fish is also affected by the
> amount of juvenile habitat.  Our Marine Protected Areas are too small to
> protect sharks, they swim over large areas and will swim outside the MPAs
> and can be caught.
> There used to be a few schools of bumphead parrotfish here, but now only
> about one fish per year is sighted, and they appear to be close to local
> extinction.  Spear fishing using lights at night is especially effective
> at taking these parrotfish, because they sleep together on the bottom in a
> school in the same place every night.  Bumpheads have been driven to
> local extinction on some islands in Fiji, something we want to avoid here..
>  Humphead wrasse are less common here than many places where there are no
> people.  Giant groupers and some kinds of sharks appear to be naturally
> rare here and elsewhere.  If the last ones are caught, they could become
> locally extinct, and we want to avoid that by protecting them.
> All these fish are large, reaching 4 feet or more in length and 100-600
> pounds, depending on the species.  Fishing usually removes the largest
> fish first.  There is direct evidence from a NOAA CRED study that islands
> in the US Pacific, including American Samoa, which have people have fewer
> big fish than islands without people, while populated islands have just as
> many small fish as unpopulated islands (Williams et al. 2011).
> American Samoa is now a world leader in protecting its large coral reef
> fish species. The American Samoa Government has adopted these new
> regulations to help fish populations recover to help create a balanced
> ecosystem which includes sustainable fishing yields and supports
> traditional cultural practices which are important locally.  The largest
> coral reef fish are overfished on most coral reefs around the world where
> people are near, making this a widespread problem.  Overfishing is one of
> the largest effects people have on reefs and can leave reefs vulnerable to
> masses of algae growing over the coral.  Large fish are very attractive
> for scuba divers, and scuba diving tourism is a major income earner for
> small tropical island countries.  In a few places like Palau, shark
> diving tourism is a major part of the economy.  Dive tourism is
> non-consumptive, and where it is feasible, can provide much greater local
> economic benefits than fishing.
> Nadon, M.C., Baum, J.K., Williams, I.D., McPherson, J.M., Zglicynski,
> B.J., Richards, B.L., Schroeder, R.E., Brainard, R.E. Brainard, R.E.
> 2012.  Re-creating missing population baselines for Pacific Reef Sharks.  Conservation
> Biology 26: 493-503.
> Williams, I., Richards, B.M., Sandin, S.A., Baum, J.K., Schroeder, R.E.,
> Nadon, M.O., Zgliczynski, B., Craig, P., McIlwain, J.L., Brainard, R.E.
> 2011.  Differences in reef fish assemblages between populated and remote
> reefs spanning multiple archipelagos across the Central and West Pacific.
> Journal of Marine Biology 2011: 1-14.
> ----------
> Douglas Fenner
> Dept. Marine & Wildlife Resources, American Samoan Government
> PO Box 7390
> Pago Pago, American Samoa 96799  USA

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