Currently more than 200 million acres of terrestrial wilderness and national parks in the U.S. have been designated as off limits to mining, logging, and vehicular traffic, whereas only 50 square miles of coastal areas enjoy similar projection. However, President Clinton has recently issued an executive order directing federal agencies to develop a network of "ocean conservation areas" aimed at protecting and preserving the nation's beaches, coasts and ocean resources. A major focus of the President's Oceans 2000 Act will surely be the National Marine Sanctuary System, which was created in 1972 to protect ecological, historical, and aesthetic resources within vital areas of U.S. coasts. Currently there are 12 official sanctuaries protecting over 18,000 square miles of American coastal waters. The least explored and most remote of the sanctuaries is the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary (FBNMS) in American Samoa. Presented here is a case study of GIS activities in progress at FBNMS, soon to be visited by the Sustainable Seas Expeditions (SSE). SSE is a 5-year initiative, directed by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Sylvia Earle, to pioneer the first explorations of the sanctuaries with advanced diving technology. As FBNMS will still be data-poor in comparison to the other sanctuaries, even after an SSE mission, the challenge will be to set up a GIS with the potential to meet SSE objectives, including: understanding species composition and abundance; development of sanctuary program monitoring protocols; and selection of sites for habitat class designation and protection (e.g., no take zones).
Keywords: marine sanctuaries, marine GIS, Pacific islands