Coral reef conservation and restoration programme along Kenya’s coastline is bearing fruit with fishing communities reaping big as they get larger catches.

Coral reef conservation and restoration programme is a three -year sustainable initiative spearheaded by the Coast Development Authority, to naturally recover the degraded coral reefs.

Globally, coral reefs have been diminishing, due to climate change or global warming.

But Wavuvi Association of Kenya chairman, Hamid Omar, says fishermen at the Kenyan coast are now reaping the benefits of coral reef conservation and restoration programme as fish stock increase.

In an interview, Mr Omar said fishermen had been grappling with declining fish catches especially in Kwale county.

“But we are now getting more stocks especially in Wasini. The landing sites at the Kenya-Tanzania border is laden with boats belonging to our local communities with big catches,” Mr Omar said.

A diver guide and coral gardener, Mr Ali Ramadhan, urged communities living along the coastline to stop polluting the Indian Ocean and instead protect the marine ecosystem.

Through the project, youth and women are taught coral reef restoration and Geographic Information System (GSI) mapping and tracking.

Nursery grown coral colonies are transplanted onto degraded reef sites to stimulate natural regeneration and recovery and to restore habitat complexity.

“Coral reefs grow naturally in water and thus transplanting them in a process known as ‘coral gardening’ has been very innovative for CDA,” CDA’s Managing Director Mohamed Keinan said.

The innovation involves transplantation of coral reefs, tagging them before transplantation, tracking their growth through having their images at various stages, measuring their size and storing this data in a database, among other activities.

In its second year, the authority says it has been successful as it plans to expand coral nursery cultivation and transplantation across degraded reefs along the coastline.

Scientists have been warning that its decline poses danger to the marine ecosystem and the maritime sector.

There are 250 coral reefs species in Kenya. The highest diversity are in Shimoni and Kisite areas due to bio-geography of the ecosystems.

Coral reefs help in the maritime sector as they protect coastline.

“You have sheltered lagoon and passage that fishermen can use, sheltered entrances at the ports of Mombasa, Lamu and Shimoni, we get coastal protection, fish and food and they boost the tourism industry through, for example, snorkeling. We will lose a lot of benefits if they are depleted,” said Dr David Obura, the director of Coastal Oceans Research and Development – Indian Ocean (CORDIO) East Africa.

Dr Keinan blamed pollution, climate change and global warming for decline in coral reefs saying the habitats are among the most threatened ecosystems.

“Thus the majority of coral reef have been heavily degraded. But this will have health, social and economic consequences. Our authority is working with fisher communities in rebuilding the reefs along the coastline of Wasini island in Shimoni area of Kwale county,” Dr Keinan said.

The authority boss also blamed bleaching, sedimentation and overfishing by local communities for the decline in the ecosystem in Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi and Lamu counties. He said Kenya’s coastline was traditionally endowed with rich coral reefs.

Dr Keinan said the conservation and restoration programme will be expanded in other degraded coral reef sites.

The programme under the Kenya Climate Change Adaptation Programme (KCCAP) is funded by Adaptation Fund under the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC).