American Samoa relies on its reefs to ensure the survival of all its islands. Coral reefs help protect islands from the extremely powerful ocean currents that can envelop an island easily if it lacks the proper structure. According to South Florida PBS, American Samoa “is home to some of the world’s largest documented corals.” These corals are crucial to the territory because they “help block storm waves and tsunami waves that impact the shoreline.” Without these reefs, American Samoa could decrease its land size dramatically.
The coral reefs are even more important than ever because of climate change, which has increased the “sea levels by over 7 inches.” This and an increase in cyclones and tsunamis have tested American Samoa’s coral reefs, but a recent study by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science has shown promising results. The study determined that “the findings suggest that even though some land-based pollutants are reaching the bay, the water quality of the system is relatively good. Resource managers can use these data to ensure that water quality in the bay does not degrade over time, and to be aware of specific pollutant groups, such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals, that might be of emerging concern.” This is a very promising sign to see as many coral reefs around the world are struggling with temperature increases, which can lead to coral bleaching that can kill reefs due to a lack of nutrition.
American Samoa reefs are going to be needed more than ever with the recent state of emergency reported by the Asia Pacific Report. The report says that “American Samoa Governor Lemanu Peleti Mauga declared a state of emergency after homes, the school and church on Aunu’u island were swamped by huge waves, the building housing the generators on the island were flooded and sustained damage.” American Samoa’s coral reef protection is more crucial than ever before with this recent news as climate change endangers the people of the islands. Ensuring the ecological protection of the reefs is extremely important in the coming years and the recent news of a budget increase of “7.4 million dollars” reported by Radio New Zealand shows that expansion in environmental measures could come sooner rather than later. American Samoa’s reefs aren’t just a helpful tool against climate change, they are a necessity for the island’s future existence. One idea by the Center for International Maritime Security is to establish a coast guard station in American Samoa due to the “increasing concerns surrounding illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing (IUUF), the law enforcement presence and know-how of the US Coast Guard would be a boon to safeguarding erosion of geographic and economic sovereignty of island nations in the Southern Pacific.” Perhaps the recent budget increase could be used for this or another environmental plan, but either way, the promising signs of American Samoan reefs are a glimmer of light in the ongoing battle with climate change.