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Kenya’s Kuruwitu corals are back, thanks to local conservation drive |


Kenya’s Kuruwitu Beach is quiet. Sparkling sands complement the clear blue waters, and the familiar scent of sand and sea salt fills the air.

A decade ago, villagers noticed their fish stocks were dwindling and they set up a reserve on their own with the help of like-minded partners.

Dickson Gereza is a marine conservationist and program leader of the coral project, and he explains that pollution is the ocean’s biggest enemy: “Humans are living irresponsibly,” he says. It’s important to dispose of trash properly to save the ocean.”


Isolated beach in Kenya's Kilifi county.

UN / Thelma Mwadzaya

Isolated beach in Kenya’s Kilifi county.

First local coral conservation project

Communities recognize that overfishing, climate change, and uncontrolled fishing of fish and coral caused by the aquarium trade need to be addressed before marine ecosystems are irreparably damaged. .

In 2005, residents in the area took the unprecedented step of setting aside a 30-hectare Marine Protected Area (MPA). This is the first Coral-Based Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) in Kenya. Twelve years on, the area has seen a remarkable recovery.

Katana Hinzano is a conservationist at the Ocean Creatures Foundation, where he is involved in the creation of alternative coral blocks and cement and sand nurseries. He recalled the relationship between the sea and human life: “The sea is valuable to those who live near it. Fishermen and fish business owners live on resources from the sea. We all have a part to play to ensure that we benefit from the sea and leave it intact for generations to come.”

With fishing banned in the LMMA, fish have grown in number, size, and variety. This area has become a breeding ground, leading to an increasing number of off-site fish. Thus, fishermen catch more due to spillover effects. At the same time, biodiversity has increased significantly, making Kuruwitu an ecotourism destination, creating jobs for guides, boat captains and rangers.

“The sea is valuable to me because it is life,” said Goodluck Mbaga, an environmentalist and honorary guide with the Kenya Wildlife Service. It provides food, contributes to the economy, provides income and entertainment. We all need to learn how to conserve the ocean before we reach its full potential.”


Metal bed with plastic net used as part of coral restoration in Kilifi County, Kenya

UN / Thelma Mwadzaya

Metal bed with plastic net used as part of coral restoration in Kilifi County, Kenya

Metal bed and plastic net

To help corals regenerate, experts from Oceans Alive and the Kuruwitu Welfare and Conservation Association, have joined hands. It starts with a bed made of metal with plastic mesh attached to it. Cement and sand plugs are dried and fastened to the beds to create nursery pots. After raising them at sea for weeks, the bed is ready for transplant and released to the seabed. The marine life then has the opportunity to attach itself to the structure.

Co-management of marine resources is expected to be the way forward in ecosystem-based management of marine landscapes in the region. United Nations Environment Program, UNEP, in conjunction with UN Habitat, launched the Go Blue Project to help cities and towns near the ocean thrive. Go Blue Project’s Florian Lux explains this connection do:”Cities and towns exist alongside oceans and seas, and this gives the sea and the landscape. For them to be resilient to climate change, they need to regenerate.”



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