Pacific Islands Region

NOAA in the Pacific Islands Region

The Pacific Islands Region is the largest NOAA region geographically, and encompasses 32% of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. The Pacific Region includes the State of Hawai‘i, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, with approximately 1.7 million people all living in the coastal zone. The State of Hawai‘i accounts for approximately 1.4 million (84%) of this total population. The combined coastline is 2,930.5 kilometers, and the combined land area is 17,842 square kilometers.

The Pacific Islands region of the United States has a labor force of 1,187,991 persons, generating $85.9 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013. The range varies greatly among the states and territories.  Hawai‘i accounts for the largest individual contribution to the region’s GDP with $80 billion, of which $7 billion is connected with jobs relating to the ocean.  The largest share of ocean-related employment is in the tourism and recreation sector, which accounts for 91% of the total.

The 2013 World Factbook estimates adjusted GDP in the other American Flag jurisdictions in the Pacific as follows:

  • Guam at $4.9 billion with U.S. military, tourism and construction identified as dominant income sources;
  • the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands at $682 million with US payments, tourism and subsistence agriculture and fisheries dominating income sources; and
  • American Samoa at approximately $711 million with U.S. payments and tuna fishing and processing as dominant income sources.

 

Strategic Vision for the Pacific Islands:

An integrated NOAA Program that combines the special expertise and unique capabilities of individual NOAA line offices and programs to promote the long-term growth and sustainability of communities, natural resources and businesses in the Pacific by:

  • Advancing national goals and mission responsibilities in the region;
  • Addressing distinct regional challenges related to NOAA’s mission;
  • Strengthening regional partnerships in and out of NOAA to advance NOAA’s mission responsibilities and respond to stakeholder needs; and
  • Ensuring a sustained and collaborative engagement with regional stakeholders to understand information needs and develop products and services to address those needs.

NOAA in the Pacific Islands Region includes over 30 offices and over 600 employees.  It stands apart from NOAA’s other regions in a number of significant ways. First, our region is geographically isolated, composed entirely of islands and atolls that can only be reached by air or sea, and the closest we get to the rest of the nation is Hawaii, which is 2,000 miles southwest of the North American mainland. Second, the majority of NOAA’s workforce in the region is concentrated on Oahu, with a smaller number of employees spread throughout the region. Lastly, the region has had the Pacific Region Executive Board (PREB) since 2005, when it was established to provide a forum for NOAA leadership working in the Pacific Islands to advance the efficient collaboration and integration of NOAA efforts in the Region.

Unique assets of NOAA in the Pacific Islands include:

  • Two of NOAA’s five baseline atmospheric observatories – Mauna Loa Observatory and American Samoa Observatory;
  • The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center;
  • International Tsunami Information Center (ITIC);
  • Central Pacific Hurricane Center;
  • Two permanent research vessels – NOAA ships Hi’ialakai and Oscar Elton Sette, as well as two temporary vessels, the NOAA ships Ron Brown and Okeanos Explorer;
  • The four and only marine national monuments in the U.S.:
    • Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (the largest marine protected area in the U.S.)
    • Rose Atoll Marine National Monument,
    • The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument,
    • The Marianas Trench Marine National Monument;
    • Two National Marine Sanctuaries
      • Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary,
    • Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary;
  • The TAO/TRITON array.

The US-affiliated Pacific Islands consist of six jurisdictions that cover an area within the Pacific Ocean that is larger than the continental United States. Three are U.S. flag territories: American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and Guam. The other three — Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and Republic of Palau – are independent countries but are also freely associated with the United States. These independent countries have Compacts of Free Association with the United States; under these compacts, the countries are fully sovereign in domestic and foreign affairs, but give responsibility for their health, education, defense, and other essential operations to the United States.

Through these agreements, citizens residing in these three countries are able to immigrate to the United States without the usual overseas screening for health conditions that is required of those permanently resettling from other foreign countries (CDC statistics on Pacific Islands, 2011). U.S. payments under the individual Compacts of Free Association, subsistence agriculture, fisheries, and tourism provide primary sources of income.  NOAA also provides direct support for the provision of weather and climate services.

If you are interested in partnering with NOAA in the Pacific Islands, or conducting an internship with NOAA staff, please contact seema.balwani@noaa.gov.

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