With the increasing impacts of both climate change and human activities on our oceans, the Government of Samoa joins the global community’s call for the protection and sustainable use of our marine resources by committing to protecting 30% of its ocean by 2030 through an ecologically representative Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) network. Efforts aim to minimize the negative impacts of illegal and unsustainable fishing, marine pollution, habitat destruction, ocean acidification, and others on all marine resources, living and non-living.
The Marine Spatial Plan (MSP) is one of the Integrated Management Solutions (IMS) of the Samoa Ocean Strategy (SOS), which aims to design protocols for proper usage of the ocean and also protect areas within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
With support from Conservation International and the Waitt Foundation for the implementation of the Samoa Ocean Strategy 2020-2023, the Seasketch spatial planning tool was made available to the Marine Spatial Plan (MSP) team. The Seasketch is a user-friendly tool created by the McClintock Lab at the University of California Santa Barbara in partnership with the Waitt Foundation. Samoa is utilizing this tool to map out protected areas rich in biodiversity, such as seamounts, bioregions, and Special Unique Marine Areas (SUMA), while simultaneously ensuring that fishing grounds are available to the nation.
Samoa is the first country in the Pacific region to utilize the Seasketch in its first MSP for its survey tool to collect data during the 1st Round of Consultation. This tool has benefited the MSP project as it is easier for non-QGIS users to navigate around.
The Conservation International Samoa team joined this 2-day Seasketch training in August with other relevant stakeholders to be trained and taught on using and navigating the tool.
By using the Seasketch tool, the MSP Core team was able to draft out a Zero Draft map of a 30% MPA network, proposed to be considered as No Take Zones (NTZ). These NTZs are areas where fishing activities are prohibited.
This Zero Draft was then presented at a 2-day Expert Workshop following the Seasketch Training, where experts were consulted and provided feedback on the suggested 11 different NTZ scattered around the country.
Using this platform, any user can run immediate diagnostics for targeted goals in designing MPA networks, and users can view attributes & reports on their design.
In discussions with the MSP Project Coordinator, Atonio Mulipola, he expressed that using this tool allowed expert stakeholders to view geomorphological features and boundaries around Samoa. In addition, feedback was given about where they prioritize balancing between protecting areas rich in biodiversity within the EEZ and making sure that there are enough areas for fishers and communities to fish in.