Samoa Ocean Strategy Newsletter: A Milestone Year for Ocean Protection and Sustainable Management in 2023
December 21, 2023
In 2023, the Samoan Government, alongside partners, stakeholders, and communities, advanced efforts to protect 30% and sustainably manage 100% of its ocean space through the Samoa Ocean Strategy (SOS). These efforts laid the groundwork for a healthier ocean, thriving communities, and a brighter future for the people of Samoa. Below are some highlights from this year.
Watch Our New short Film 'Samoa Ocean Strategy:
Preserving Our Lifeline for the Future'
Image: Gaualofa, a reconstruction of a va'a-tele.
On World Ocean Day, we launched the ‘Samoa Ocean Strategy: Preserving Our Lifeline for the Future’ short film. This film underscores the crucial role of coral reefs as the foundation of the ocean, possessing ecological and economic values of immeasurable significance. It also sheds light on the Samoa Ocean Strategy as a national policy framework aimed at sustainably managing Samoa’s extensive ocean and marine resources for the current and future well-being of all Samoans. The strategy integrates traditional knowledge with contemporary practices in fishing and marine resource utilization. It particularly emphasizes the impactful role of marine protected areas, which have facilitated coral recovery following natural disasters.
Extensive Community Consultations on the Marine Spatial Plan
Image: Community Consultations
The Samoan Government is actively advancing its commitment to protect 30% and sustainably manage 100% of its ocean space through the Samoa Ocean Strategy (SOS), employing Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) as a crucial tool. MSP, a public, science-based process, strategically maps various activities like fishing, shipping, and renewable energy in marine areas to ensure their sustainable management.
As the design and development phase of the MSP nears its final year, we have made considerable progress. This includes the development of reports on Samoa's unique marine areas, a marine ecosystem service valuation, and a legal review. The legal framework for the MSP is in progress, with the integration of the MSP section into the Biological Diversity Management Bill.
Additionally, the third draft of the MSP map is in development, incorporating feedback from nationwide consultations and completed sector consultations. This collaborative effort is supported by organizations such as the European Union, IUCN, Conservation International Samoa, SeaSketch, the Waitt Institute, and the Waitt Foundation. All relevant reports are available on the SOS website. We look forward to finalizing this initiative in 2024.
Guardians: Samoa's Students Learn About the Ocean
Image: The Guardians Program
During Environment Week this year, we launched the Guardians Modules as a key component of our Guardians program. The Guardians initiative is an interactive environmental education program designed for children, aimed at enhancing environmental literacy with an emphasis on natural resource management and conservation.
The third edition of the Guardians Program was successfully launched in the Asaga District, engaging over 130 students from twelve schools within the district. Additionally, the program expanded to include more than 100 students from the Palauli and Satupa'itea Districts, further broadening its impact. The program's influence is evident as a parent from Asaga noted his son's newfound enthusiasm for school. His son eagerly shared his knowledge about marine ecosystems and is excited about learning new topics.
Through initiatives like the Guardians Program, the next generation is gaining the knowledge and passion needed to safeguard Samoa’s environment.
Samoan Leaders Elected to Key AOSIS Roles: Championing Climate Change and Ocean Policy for Small Island States
Image: Ms. Anama Solofa
Two Samoan officials have been appointed to work with the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), supporting Samoa in its role as Chair of the Alliance. Samoa assumed the AOSIS Chairmanship from Antigua and Barbuda in January this year and will serve in this capacity for two years. As Chair, Samoa will function as the Secretariat for AOSIS through its Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Ms. Anne Rasmussen, an experienced climate change negotiator with over 20 years of service in the Samoa public sector, has been seconded to AOSIS from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE). Ms. Anama Solofa, a former official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and a marine policy expert, joined the team from the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
In their roles, they will lead negotiations for AOSIS on Climate Change and Oceans, respectively, while Samoa holds the AOSIS Chairmanship. These positions are crucial for both Samoa and AOSIS, as they involve spearheading negotiations that represent the interests and challenges of Small Island States in international forums, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (UNFCCC CoP).
The Alliance of Small Island States, established in 1990, plays a vital role in advocating for Small Island States and influencing international environmental and sustainable development policies. On January 30, 2023, AOSIS members celebrated the transition of Chairmanship from Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean to Samoa in the Pacific, marking the beginning of Samoa's tenure for the 2023-2024 period. Following Samoa's term, the Chairmanship will pass to Palau in 2025.
Sustainable Financing of the Samoa Ocean Strategy
Image: Samoa Coastline
In an effort to support the long-term sustainable financing of the Samoa Ocean Strategy (SOS), a critical initiative is underway to analyze the costs of managing Samoa's nearshore and offshore marine protected areas (MPAs). The initial cost model will provide high-level estimates of both fixed and variable costs for existing and proposed MPAs. This model may potentially extend to include supporting activities such as cultural programs, capacity building, or learning exchanges. The cost analysis could also take into account projections for new, expanded, or upgraded MPAs, and compare basic versus best practice scenarios to provide a comprehensive understanding of the range of potential costs. This endeavor will inform crucial aspects of the SOS, ensuring robust financial planning and long-term sustainability.
Expedition to Study Coral Reefs in Samoa will Guide Resource Management
Image: Diver on expedition
In 2022, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), in collaboration with Conservation International, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, CRIOBE, and the Waitt Institute undertook an expedition to survey coral reef ecosystems across Samoa. The team successfully conducted 490 dives at 36 sites in the nearshore waters of both islands, collecting valuable data on Samoa's coral reefs, fish populations, and water quality. Among their findings were over 250 different species of fish and detailed 3D imagery of the reefs.
This expedition will culminate in a scientific report that will expand existing knowledge of coastal waters and be instrumental in supporting the expansion of inshore Marine Protected Area networks. This report will enhance the Government of Samoa’s understanding of marine life and guide future decision-making in marine resource management.
Success in Turtle Conservation Efforts through Nesting Surveys
Image: Sea turtles
In February and March of 2023, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) Division of Environment and Conservation's Marine Section, in partnership with Conservation International (CI) Samoa, conducted turtle nesting monitoring surveys in Matautu Lefaga and Falealupo villages. In February, the team found two turtle nests at Matareva Beach in Matautu Lefaga, although they missed observing the nesting turtle. A follow-up visit in April confirmed the hatching of eggs from both nests, with 15% found to be infertile. During the March survey in Falealupo, the team discovered a total of 47 hawksbill hatchlings at Tanumatiu Beach, along with a nest containing 167 eggshells, 10% of which were infertile.
After data collection, all the hatchlings were released. The team also found another nest with three empty turtle shells, indicating additional successful hatchings. Traditionally, only the Hawksbill turtle was known to nest in Samoa; however, a review of data from 2017 suggests the sighting of 16 green turtle hatchlings in Matautu-Lefaga.
In response to these findings, MNRE and CI are committed to continuing advocacy and strengthening national efforts in turtle conservation.
About the National Ocean Steering Committee
The National Ocean Steering Committee is established to provide high level advisory role and decision making in the coordination and implementation of all thematic areas and integrated management solutions for the Samoa Ocean Strategy
Samoa Ocean Strategy
The Samoa Ocean Strategy, or SOS, is the national policy framework that seeks to sustainably manage Samoa’s vast ocean and marine resources for the well-being of all Samoans now, and into the future. The SOS provides bold and comprehensive integrated ocean management solutions that will advance ocean stewardship and ensure the cultural and the economic values that Samoans derive from their 120,000 square kilometer ocean are preserved for generations to come.
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