Wildlife Conservation Society

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is working to empower Kenyan communities in sustainably managing their fisheries and protecting coral reefs.

Kenya’s coastal ecosystems are diverse and economically important as fishing and tourism sites, while coral reef and seagrass habitats act as feeding grounds for endangered species including sea turtles and marine mammals.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has been active in Kenya for almost two decades, led by Dr Tim McClanahan, one of the world’s leading coral reef scientists. Its long-term presence has allowed it to build up trusted relationships with small-scale fishermen (who represent 80% of Kenyan fishers), government agencies, and other stakeholders, as well as develop a long-term monitoring programme, something that is rare in tropical countries.

The team’s track record is impressive. It initiated an annual Fishers Forum in 1997 to share scientific results with community leaders, which now attracts fishermen from across Kenya. Their research has led to management interventions like the banning of beach seine nets along the south coast, a particularly destructive form of small-scale fishing. Post-ban, fishers saw their catches and incomes rise, a catalyst for further conservation. Tim recently won Rare’s Solution Search with a design for a cost-effective fish trap that reduces bycatch up to 80%.

WCS has also been instrumental in the creation of 16 ‘tengefu’ (community fishing closures), that are now recognised under Kenyan law. Another 17 communities have since approached WCS for help establishing their own tengefu.

Synchronicity Earth supported WCS to collect, analyse and translate scientific data into management recommendations and build capacity for reef monitoring which focussed on the community-managed fisheries and important, but understudied, coral reefs situated outside Kenyan national parks (which make up just 8% of the coastline).

At A Glance