NOAA’s American Samoa Tsunami Response
Marine Debris Assessment and Emergency Coral Restoration
The NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a Tsunami Watch and Warning message at 6:59am Samoa time on September 29, 2009. The Watch and Warning message was generated because of a magnitude 8.0 earthquake that occurred in the Samoa Islands Region, 138 miles southwest of Pago Pago, American Samoa at a depth of 20.5 miles (U.S. Geological Survey). The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported American Samoa (population 65,000) was struck by a tsunami, causing flooding, damage, and an unknown number of casualties. A Presidential Major Disaster was declared on September 29, 2009 for individual assistance, public assistance, and hazard mitigation.
In response to requests by the American Samoa Government, NOAA is undertaking a preliminary assessment of tsunami-generated marine debris and emergency coral restoration for American Samoa. A strategic and systematic survey and assessment of the level and impact of marine debris is necessary, both to demonstrate the extent of support necessary for recovery efforts and to help prioritize potential future removal operations. Two programs within NOAA's National Ocean Service (Coral Reef Conservation Program and Marine Debris Program) pooled funds to support this effort.
- Conduct strategic assessment of tsunami-generated marine debris that threatens coral reef resources.
- Perform emergency restoration (righting) of corals toppled by the tsunami but still alive, at marine debris survey sites.
- As time, conditions, and debris size permits, conduct limited marine debris removal.
- NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center's Coral Reef Ecosystem Division: conducting the assessment and restoration, providing safety officers, boat team leads, divers, and a GIS data manager.
- NOAA Office of Response and Restoration, Marine Debris Program, and Office of National Marine Sanctuaries: providing on-site coordination, outreach and communications, technical support to volunteer cleanups, liaison to other federal agency efforts, and operations coordination.
- NOAA National Weather Service, Pacific Region: overall point of contact for NOAA recovery efforts.
- Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary
- Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources
- American Samoa Department of Commerce
- Other Coral Reef Advisory Group members
Estimated (gross approximation; may include water weight) debris removed:
- Tires: 858 pounds
- Roofing: 385 pounds
- Fabric: 123 pounds
- Household items: 691 pounds
Total as of 12/9/09 = Nearly 2,100 pounds
Download the final report:
Photo caption is noted with each photo. Photos and map must be credited to the "National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration" with each use.
Planning for marine debris assessment and survey work. Photo courtesy of D. Helton, OR&R.
Village of Leone, American Samoa. Photo courtesy K. Chaston, NOAA PSC.
Debris on beach in Amanave, American Samoa. Photo courtesy K. Chaston, NOAA PSC.
Map of proposed marine debris survey sites at Tutuila.
Towed diver over debris off Se'etaga, Southwestern Tutuila.
Submerged marine debris off Amanave Village in southwestern Tutuila.
Tow-boarders Bennallack and Manuel conferring on data.
This video shows marine debris washed out on to the coral reef offshore of Poloa, a village that was wiped out on the southwest corner of Tutuila, American Samoa during the tsunami on September 29, 2009. Debris includes metal sheet roofing, tires, clothing, plastics, and more.
Click here to view the video by the NOAA Ocean Media Center.
Screenshot from video.