Sea Turtles Nests and Hatchlings Protection
The National Park of American Samoa’s (NPSA) Ofu island area has Green and Hawksbill (Chelonia mydas and Eretmochelys imbricata) sea turtles nesting inside park boundaries. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the Green as “endangered” and the Hawksbill as “critically endangered” because their populations have declined worldwide by as much as 67% and 80%, respectively, in the last three generations. Preliminary data indicates that between these two species, fewer than 10 turtles are nesting on the two-mile park beach on Ofu island in a given year. The scarcity of individuals of these sensitive species in their native habitat indicates an area of concern for NPSA.
There is an ongoing territory-wide sea turtle project funded by National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and administered through the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR). The DMWR project includes monitoring, outreach, and turtle stranding (“beached” or stuck in shallow water) response and necropsies on Tutuila island. The project also covers monitoring and management of turtles in the park and other nesting areas on Ofu island. NPSA has a full-time presence in the Manu’a Islands, including a team of local interns and is in a good position to carry out the actual work involved in getting the necessary data. This National Park Service project allows NPSA to attach to the existing program which is successful on Tutuila island and elevate the Ofu island portion to a functional level.
This project also fulfills a NPSA objective to mentor local Samoan youth for careers in stewardship by training and employing locals as turtle monitors through a partnership with the American Conservation Experience (ACE).