Designated: April 29, 1986
Expanded: July 26, 2012
Area: 13,581 mi²
Located in the waters between Hawaii and New Zealand in the heart of Polynesia’s oldest culture, National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa is the system’s largest sanctuary, and its most remote, with the world’s oldest and largest Porites coral heads. Rose Atoll Marine National Monument was incorporated as part of the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa during its expansion in 2012.
This is a place of intertwined natural and cultural significance. Extensive reefs produce 150 species of coral that are the backbone of the local economy. It’s home to 1400 different invertebrates and more than a dozen species of marine mammals, among them humpback whales who visit every winter. The Sanctuary also preserves rare maritime heritage resources representing 3,000 years of American Samoan history and tradition, from prehistoric villages to historic shipwrecks to military fortifications.
The Sanctuary is a center for important research and monitoring. Its most comprehensive project, spanning decades, has tracked the recovery of a coral reef. The team has amassed information on coral, fishes, invertebrates and marine plants – one of the few studies of its type in the world. It also conducts an annual survey on dozens of its humpback whale visitors, collecting photos and biological samples. Their research has greatly expanded knowledge about the species.