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.
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.
WHERE Northern Marianas Islands
WHAT No-Take Marine Protected Area