Information and access
The National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa is one of 14 federally designated underwater areas protected by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Of all the areas in the National Marine Sanctuary System, the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa is the most remote, is the only true tropical reef, and is thought to support the greatest diversity of marine life.
The sanctuary is comprised of six protected areas, covering 13,581 square miles of nearshore coral reef and offshore open ocean waters across the Samoan Archipelago. NOAA originally established the sanctuary in 1986 to protect and preserve the 0.25 square miles of coral reef ecosystem within Fagatele Bay. In 2012, NOAA expanded the sanctuary to include Fagalua/Fogama’a (the next bay east of Fagatele) on Tutuila Island, as well as areas at Aunu’u, Ta’u and Swains islands, and a marine protected area at Rose Atoll (which was named Muliāva as known by the Manu’a residents) including nearby Vailulu’u Seamount. It is now the largest marine sanctuary in the system.
Over 150 species of coral makeup the centerpiece of sanctuary marine life, which also includes over 1,400 species of other invertebrates and a wide variety of algae, several seagrasses, humpback whales, hundreds of fish species, and hawksbill and green sea turtles. Fagatele and Fagalua/Fogama’a bays are part of a distinct biogeographic region that is a hotspot for coral cover, coral and fish species richness, and Fagatele Bay has the highest percentage of live coral cover around Tutuila Island. These bays are also home to schools of damselfish, surgeonfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, grouper and snapper
Visitors are welcome to explore the sanctuary. Please visit the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa website or come to the Ocean Center for a tour and receive a map of the trail leading to Fagatele Bay. This trail is located on private land. Travel west on Route 001 to Futiga Village and turn left just before the US Mart. Follow the road past the landfill until you reach a locked gate. Ask for permission from the family at the end of the road to hike past the gate. The family might charge a fee. Follow the trail to the small beach to explore or snorkel at your own risk. It is suggested to call the Marine Sanctuary staff a day in advance at +1 (684) 633-6500 so arrangements can be made with the family.
Rose Atoll, known to Samoans as Muliāva, is approximately 150 miles (240 km) east-southeast of Tutuila Island’s Pago Pago Harbor. It is the easternmost Samoan island, the southernmost point of the United States, the only atoll in the Samoan archipelago, and one of the smallest atolls in the world. The Muliāva sanctuary area encompasses 13,507.8 square miles (34,985.04 square km) of marine waters of the Rose Atoll Marine National Monument and waters surrounding the Vailulu’u Seamount, the only hydrothermally active seamount within the EEZ. The inner sanctuary boundary is adjacent to the seaward boundary of the Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Hence, the sanctuary does not include the land or lagoon waters that make up the refuge.
The atoll is home to 270 species of reef fish as well unique plant life and bird life only found on this atoll. Access to Rose Atoll is only for scientific and research purposes and permission must be sought from the US Fish & Wildlife Service. To contact them, visit the Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge website.