Fautasi Coastal Challenge Leads Stewardship Efforts

The Takeaway: A race of traditional long canoes creates a platform for islanders to learn about coastal challenges. The effort was established by American Samoa’s coastal zone management program.

In the American Samoa islands, the traditional way of life includes dense coastal villages with open, thatched-roof homes that are highly vulnerable to damage from cyclones and tsunamis. These villages exist near beaches and coral reefs that are vulnerable to pollution from waste and agricultural chemicals as well as marine debris. To inspire action and awareness, the American Samoa Coastal Management Program established the Fautasi Coastal Challenge—a race involving the traditional long canoe known as the fautasi, with each vessel holding 40 to 60 rowers from village-based teams.

With this program, community unity and pride is harnessed and steered toward cyclone and tsunami preparedness, land management, resource conservation, and youth engagement. The community also adopts a coastal area to monitor throughout the year. The challenge has triggered a larger regional discussion about waste management and prevention.

During the 2019 event, a total of 11 fautasi long-canoe crews raced in two heats. The teams trained for months for the competition. This much-anticipated event was sidelined in 2020 because of the pandemic, but teams and the public are looking to continue the Fautasi Coastal Challenge in 2021. (Original 2016/ Updated 2020)

Partners: American Samoa Coastal Management Program, NOAA Office for Coastal Management