Coral Reef Task Force Graduates First Watershed from Watershed Partnership Initiative

Addressing excess land-based sources of pollution is an important management action for improving water quality to support resilient coral reef ecosystems. The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force developed the Watershed Partnership Initiative to facilitate interdisciplinary partnerships with federal, state/territory, and local entities to mitigate pollution from priority watersheds adjacent to valuable coral reef resources. In 2012, Faga'alu watershed in American Samoa was selected as a priority site for the Initiative, and in 2022, was honored as its first graduate.

Aerial view of digital elevation map of the island of Tutuila with a red square around the Faga'alu Bay watershed area. The red square points to an inset satellite image of the watershed.
Faga'alu Bay is located on the island of Tutuila, American Samoa's most populated island. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program coordinated and partnered with many federal agencies, academic organizations, and local managers and community members to conduct baseline and performance monitoring, implement key management activities (green infrastructure), and build local capacity.

A billboard in front of green trees. The billboard has a photo of a watershed and the words Faga'alu Watershed: Protecting the Environment for Our Future at the top and a line of organizational logos along the bottom.
The watershed project was highlighted locally using billboards and other educational signs.

Following 10 years of partnership implementing best practices, Faga'alu watershed graduated after demonstrating ecological improvement and establishing sufficient local capacity to monitor and manage future land-based sources of pollution issues.

Additionally, local community participation has enhanced village ownership in managing their natural resources. In fact, the village of Faga'alu is now in the process of developing a marine protected area in Faga'alu Bay to expand its stewardship of the natural resources found beyond the shoreline.

View of a pink and brown coral reef in clear tropical waters.
The coral reef along the shore of the Faga'alu Watershed is recovering after years of polluted runoff from the watershed.

The U.S Coral Reef Task Force will soon add additional priority watersheds to the Watershed Partnership Initiative and can use the accomplishments and lessons learned from Faga'alu to guide these news sites toward achieving similar successful outcomes. We want to thank our partners at NOAA Fisheries, NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and San Diego University for their work on this project!

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