Regional efforts at promotion and conservation and restoration of coastal ecosystems

World Ocean’s day is here! This week we have been sharing some short articles from current grantees under WIOMSA’s MASMA and MARG programmes and today we will share with you two last articles. 

Regional efforts at promotion and conservation and restoration of coastal ecosystems in the Western Indian Ocean. 

 By James Mwaluma 

 Coastal communities in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region are totally dependent on ecosystem services for the provision of natural resources for sustenance and livelihood. Coastal fish production supports livelihoods and is an essential source of animal protein. Fisheries have increased about fivefold and today most of the coastal fish stocks of the region are considered to be fully exploited. The most critical of  these habitats being mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs. These essential habitats are under threat due to human activities, and with that an important ocean service is lost that extends far beyond the local areas. However, various efforts have emerged aimed at conservation and restoration of these critical habitats both at national and regional level in the WIO. 

Mangrove conservation and ecotourism – A case of Dabaso Creek Conservation Group Kenya (DCCG) 

Dabaso Creek Conservation Group is one of the groups within the bigger Mida Creek Conservation Community (MCCC).  It was formed to address decline in fisheries in Mida creek brought about by destruction of mangroves and poison fishing. Dabaso was one of the later groups that joined MCCC, after seeing success in other groups in 2004 and is registered with the ministry of social services as a community based organization (CBO). The group has a membership of 40 members and has planted more than 600,000 mangrove seeds since 1991. Since then, schools, chiefs and sub-chiefs have been involved in the mangrove conservation process.  They involve the  local community in mangrove afforestation and reforestation, environmental education and awareness and sustainable management of the natural resources.  Towards this aim, they organise mangrove plantings and beach clean-ups as well.  

 The group has over the years received technical and financial support from Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), Kenya Coastal Development Project (KCDP), Commission for Higher Education (CHE), Coast Development Authority (CDA), Kenya Forest Service (KFS), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kwetu Training Centre, Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries and Blue Economy, County Government of Kilifi, Ramsar, Watamu Turtle Watch, Rufford Grant, Toyota, Njaa Marufuku, WWFefn, Nature Kenya, Forest Department, CDTF and a number of individuals. 

 For additional income, the group has in cooperated mangrove conservation with crab farming where they have a restaurant (The crab Shack) within the mangrove system. The restaurant is strategically located on top of the mangroves (rehabilitated) with a boardwalk to take you round the facility of crab cages and mangroves and has proved to be very popular for the delicacy of crab meat among other products. 

 The group has  been practicing crab farming which has brought great potential to the community since 2008. In addition, participation in mud crab farming by communities was further strengthened by the legislation of the Kenya Forest Act of 2007 that gave forest user groups (community or village) a mandate to manage mangrove forests in partnership with the government. Generally the group has been buying mud crabs from local fishermen and fattening them for one and a half months before they sale after attaining the marketable size of 500 g or more at their famous crab shack restaurant. The group has received research support from KMFRI to innovate and develop cost effective plastic cages which they are currently using. This technology is currently being considered for adopted in Seychelles. 

Currently the crab enterprise at Dabaso has employed over 60 people directly as restaurant, assistant cooks, crab handlers, watchmen, waitresses and over 100 indirectly as crab suppliers, vegetable suppliers, water vendors and transporters. DCCG have through different stakeholders managed to succeed hence proving that Ecotourism can be an alternative livelihood activity to the coastal communities in Kenya and the WIO at large.   


Regional project to study of the impact of seagrass degradation (seagrasses beds) on fish larval recruitment – MASMA PROJECT 2019-2021 

 Larval fish production and the dispersal capacity of this early life stage are major components that contribute to sustainable fish stocks and minimize the risk of fish collapse even under heavy fishery exploitation. The ecological habitat health for fish larvae is a vital factor to ensure proper development and high survival rates of fish as they provide critical nursery habitat and spawning grounds for new generations of commercially exploitable fish. This regional  project was conceived by three partnering countries namely Kenya (Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute), Tanzania (University of Dar Es Salaam/IMS), and Stockholm University (SU). The project was acronymed FLAPSEA meaning Fish larval Production in Seagrass beds of East Africa 

 The goal of this project is to investigate how food-provisioning services in the form of fish production are threatened by coastal habitat degradation and how production of this natural resource is related to climate change and coastal development in East Africa. The project will identify sensitive seagrass habitats that need to be protected and threshold values for healthy productive seagrass habitats, and estimate the socio-economic costs of seagrass beds loss to fisheries. Specifically, this will be done by addressing the following objectives including identification of habitat conditions critical for fish recruitment and key drivers for fish larvae production. Identification of dispersal potential of fish larvae from the seagrass habitats to where adult fish spawn, prediction of future economic impacts and the most vulnerable coastal areas, and provision of scientific information that can lead to improved management and protection strategies in coastal East Africa. 

 The project has already had its first inception meeting on 18th -21st March 2019 in North coast Hotel in Kilifi to standadise methodologies and assign tasks for each institution and is planning a sampling campaign starting  in May-July 2019. Sampling for fish larvae will be carried out in pristine and degraded sites in Kenya and Tanzania using plankton nets and light traps with potential collaboration with other regional projects such as CALMADASLEEP  project (post larval fish project) in Re-Union Islands and IHSM in Madagascar. 

Expected results from the project include provision of a science-based mitigation management measures and protection strategies for threatened coastal habitats in the WIO for sustainable fish stocks. Additionally, the project aims to establish new long-term research collaboration network with stakeholders to understand drivers affecting fish recruitment, climate change and their management. 

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