Coral Reef NOAA
May 27, 2016  

NOAA Assesses Post-tsunami Debris in American Samoa

image of survey team removing corrugated roofing from a reef off the coast of American Samoa, with an inset of an underwater shot of debris on the reef
Submerged marine debris (inset) was surveyed and removal initiated from reefs in American Samoa. Photo credit: NOAA

On September 29, a devastating tsunami struck American Samoa and neighboring islands. The deadly waves killed more than 170 people, caused severe property damage, and swept villages out to sea. In addition, they deposited a great deal of debris on the reefs in the territory; marine debris can cause damage to reefs as it is moved around by waves and currents. On November 29, a NOAA team began working in American Samoa to assess and mitigate the impact that the marine debris has on the coral reef ecosystems around Tutuila Island. The team's primary mission was to complete a preliminary survey of the amount and effect of marine debris in the reef ecosystems to demonstrate the extent of future support necessary. This information will also help prioritize potential future removal operations. Working with other federal and territorial agency representatives, village leaders, local news agencies, and volunteers, this 19-member marine debris team included NOAA personnel from the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC), Pacific Islands Regional Office, Office of Response and Restoration, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, National Weather Service, and Coral Reef Conservation Program. As of December 15, experienced marine debris divers from the PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystem Division had helped to survey 74 km of coral reef habitat, collect and remove a total of over 8,000 pounds of debris, and identify 253 additional targets for debris removal. The team completed this preliminary survey on December 17. Click here to learn more.