Scientists begin study in Samoa

The behavior of coral and pelagic species will be the focus of a research by a group of scientists from Samoa, the United States and American Samoa over the next few weeks. 

The scientists are conducting a survey on marine life in Samoa, with the hope that one day the outcome could help with fisheries management in Samoa.

The same survey has been done in American Samoa and this time the researchers feel that it is necessary to work in Samoa to complete the full archipelago as well as strengthen bonds with local researchers.

Dr. Joseph M. O’Malley, a Research Fisheries Biologist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (N.O.A.A) is one of the scientists in Samoa for the project.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Dr. O’Malley said they hope their work will one day help Samoa with fisheries management.

“We are interested in collecting basic biological and Ecological information that we hope will one day feed into sustainable fisheries management,” he said.

“We are interested in Coral species as well as pelagic species.”

The work will be conducted through a series of operations out at sea which begins today.

“So we have a series of operations everyday where we will launch small boats; one boat will go out and do spear fishing for select species and another boat will be doing bottom fishing for deep water snappers and groupers,” Dr. O’Malley said.

“Another group will be joined by M.A.F and M.N.R.E who will be doing coral reef assessments as well as some sea grass bed monitoring especially around Manono Island.”

“The research will help us understand the species more, leading to possibly better marine management plans.

“We expect from a fisheries standpoint to collect biological samples that will enable us to estimate things like how fast fish grow, how big they can get, as well as how big they are when they reach maturity; we will also conduct the same research for pelagic and coral species.

“We will also be doing some mid-water trawling at night where we will try and catch eggs and larvae of pelagic species and that will help us understand if adult fish are from here or if they are invasive.”

According to Dr. O’Malley they hope that this will help M.N.R.E and M.A.F get a “handle of how much coral bleaching is occurring around the island as well as the extent of sea grass beds.”

Before any fisheries management the country must first have a firm understanding on the basic biology and ecology of the species and that’s what the group of scientist are here for, to provide the necessary information of the species.

“Our information will then feed into a stock assessment which assesses how many fish are out there and how hard they’re being fished which will then relay into management,” Dr. O’Malley said.

“Management in terms of how many fish people can take over the year, the size quota and however Samoa decides to manage their fisheries.”

After conducting the research the samples will go towards the publishing of papers and will be used to provide management advice for Samoa.

The fish caught will be given back to the villages who own the research field waters and some will also be given to charity.

“We are all very excited to be here, I don’t think our science centre has been in Samoa since the mid 1980’s,” Dr. O’Malley said. “We hope that we’re on a cycle where we come back every 3-5 years and we really want this collaboration to grow. We’re having a great time and we hope to strengthen our partnership with Samoa.”

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