Communities restore degraded reefs along the coast of Kenya

Communities restore degraded reefs along the coast of Kenya


Along the coast of Kenya, WCS has helped 13 local communities manage their nearshore fisheries with gear restrictions and by using traditional closures called tengefu. While tengefu has yet to be firmly established in Kenyan policies, communities have been working with WCS since 2005 to operationalize their tengefu and create sustainable fish management systems within their fishing grounds. To date, six tengefu have reached the operational stage, where the community: a) recognizes closures; b) largely abides with community formulated fishing regulations; and c) actively monitors fish stocks.2 Operational fishing area closures have increased fish biomass from 100 kg/hectare to 400-500 kg/hectare, helped protect coastal reefs, and increased fisher family income by an average of 135%.


Nearshore fisheries along the coast of Kenya have been heavily overexploited because local fishers’ rights are not respected and use of gear like beach seines (nets) is a destructive and unsustainable way to fish. Overfishing depletes biodiversity, degrades ecosystem resilience to climate shocks, and reduces the abundance of reef resources essential to the well-being of poor rural families dependent on fish as a source of food and income. Starting in 2005, WCS began working with local communities all along the coast to help them secure rights to their traditional fishing grounds and to manage them sustainably. Drawing on the successful WCS model to reinforce and modernize traditional tambu closures of fishing grounds in Fiji, WCS worked closely with local communities to revitalize the use of closures (tengefu) and gear restrictions within fishing grounds over which they have legitimate, hereditary claims. Starting with a few communities, WCS now helps to manage 13 tengefu along the whole coast of Kenya. As each tengefu moved from planning to operational, WCS has helped the communities monitor their fish stocks, landings, and income from fishing. Results clearly show that implementation of tengefu fishing closures increase fish biomass, catch-per-unit-effort (i.e., the weight of fish that can be caught in a given time period), and fishers’ incomes.


Saving Species IconSPECIES: Data collected prior to and after WCS support to devolve fisheries management authority to the community of Kuruwitu shows that fish biomass has increased from 100 kg/ hectare to between 400-500 kg/hectare

Protecting Habitat IconHABITAT: On average, WCS-supported communities fish within and have management jurisdiction over 252 hectares of coastal reefs (about 260 football fields of reef—ample to provide these small communities a sustainable supply of fish if managed well) and most set aside 10% of these fishing grounds as tengefu closed areas

Securing Livelihoods IconLIVELIHOODS: Spillover of fish from a closed area near the Kenyatta Beach in Mombasa has increased the size of fish catches at the outside edge. Our research shows that per capita incomes were 135% higher for those who fished near this closed area, compared with those who fished in areas with no fishing restrictions. Profits increased because catch-per-unit-effort increased (more fish were caught in less time) and larger, more valuable fish were caught


GRAPH: With WCS support to manage their fishing grounds, the Kuruwitu community were able to increase fish stocks by over 400%.
   MAP: WCS support to 13 coastal communities in Kenya has increased fish abundance fourfold and increased.

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