SAIPAN

Scuba Diver Australasia - - Americas -

By Brandi Mueller This small green gem of an is­land, only 20 kilo­me­tres long by nine kilo­me­tres wide, has warm wa­ter, per­fect vis­i­bil­ity, fields of healthy hard corals and plenty of fish life. With a grow­ing tourist in­dus­try, mea­sures have been put in place to pro­tect its land and wa­ter re­sources by way of seven ma­rine re­serves, two of which con­nect to land re­serves.

Five ar­eas are fully no-take zones and two are species-spe­cific re­serves.

Saipan is a com­mon­wealth of the United States along with Tinian, Rota, and eleven other is­lands of­ten ab­bre­vi­ated as the CNMI. These is­lands, in­clud­ing Guam, make up the Mar­i­ana Is­lands Ar­chi­pel­ago and are the north­ern­most is­lands of Mi­crone­sia.

MAÑAGAHA MA­RINE CON­SER­VA­TION AREA (MMCA)

The MMCA pro­tects the Is­land of Mañagaha and the wa­ter around it, cov­er­ing about 50,000 square kilo­me­tres on Saipan’s western barrier reef. Sur­veys have shown this area has more than 240 species of hard corals, 31 soft corals and sea fans, and more than 100 species of fish and green sea tur­tles. The is­land is un­in­hab­ited but serves cultural and recre­ational pur­poses as it holds the re­mains of WWII wrecks that rest on the ocean floor.

MUST-SEE

THE SHOAN MARU – A WWII shipwreck thought to be the Shoan Maru sits in only about 10 me­tres of crys­tal clear wa­ter with plenty of ma­rine life in­hab­it­ing it. The ship is very much destroyed, but schools of snap­per, goat­fish, and squir­relfish lurk in the shad­ows of bro­ken and twisted metal. Un­der­neath, at least half a dozen whitetip reef sharks can be seen sit­ting in the sand.

THE EMILY PLANE – Also in the MMCA is the Emily plane which is in sev­eral pieces, ly­ing in about 10 me­tres of wa­ter. The en­gines, still at­tached to the pro­pel­lers, stand out from the white sand thanks to the co­ral-en­crusted metal and the fish-en­gulfed en­gine. The wings, which sit nearby, host a school of squir­relfish, along­side other fish life that have in­hab­ited the hol­lows of the bro­ken air­plane.

WHEN

2000

WHERE North­ern Mar­i­anas Is­lands

WHAT No-Take Ma­rine Pro­tected Area

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