U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service logo A Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System
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Rose Atoll
National Wildlife Refuge

About 2,500 miles south of
Honolulu, HI   
E-mail: Susan_White@fws.gov
Phone Number: 808-792-9560
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Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge

Rose Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, 14 degrees south of the equator and about 2,500 miles south of Hawaii, is at the east end of the Samoan archipelago, 180 miles east of Pago Pago, American Samoa. It is the smallest atoll in the world with about 20 acres of land and 1,600 acres of lagoon. The square reef protects two small, emergent islands. Rose Island, the larger of the two, is low, sandy, and thickly vegetated with shrubs, vines, and trees. It is an important nesting area for the threatened green turtle and endangered hawksbill sea turtle.

Rose Atoll is part of the Pacific Remote Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The office is in Honolulu.

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Wildlife and Habitat

Rose Atoll NWR is home to 12 species of migratory seabirds, and provides nesting ground for the threatened green turtle. Among the diverse marine life in the lagoon are numerous fish species and a population of rare giant clams.

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Rose Atoll is part of the Territory of American Samoa. It is believed that the Samoan Islands were originally inhabited as early as 3000 years ago and that Polynesians have harvested at Rose Atoll for millennia. Several species, such as the giant clam, were used for cultural celebrations and events.

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The refuge is closed to the public.

Recreation and Education Opportunities
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Management Activities
The refuge is closed to the public to protect fragile seabird colonies, endangered species, and island habitats. Special use permits to conduct scientific research can be obtained from the Pacific Remote Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex office in Honolulu.

The refuge staff recently completed a rat eradication project on the atoll and is closely monitoring recovery of bird and plant populations. Grounding of a Taiwanese 135-foot long-line tuna fishing vessel in October 1993 released 100,000 gallons of diesel and 500 gallons of lube oil into refuge waters.

All of these contaminants were discharged into the ocean, where prevailing currents carried most of them across the reef flat and into the lagoon. The diesel and oil killed giant clams, sea cucumbers, reef-boring urchins, and a large area of the primary reef-forming organisms, coralline algae. The grounding physically damaged the coral reef when the ship hit the upper portion of the outer reef slope and skipped across the tops of two large spurs before coming to rest on the tops of two others.

Subsequent monitoring and assessment studies indicate that the reef is suffering ongoing injury from iron being released from the decaying ship. Initially, oil killed many organisms, but the high concentration of iron has led to algal blooms that further inhibit repopulation of coralline algae and filter feeding marine organisms. To date, about 37½ tons of metal wreckage have been removed from the atoll, but there is still much more work to be done.

Plans are to completely remove all possible wreckage to a disposal site 3 miles offshore as funding is made available. The Service is studying the damages and ongoing effects of the shipwreck, and is continuing to seek ways to find funding to help restore habitat. Staff from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Government of American Samoa monitors threatened green sea turtles that nest at Rose Atoll on a regular basis.