Kisite Marine National Park, Kenya

Fast Facts

- Fish biomass inside a marine reserve was 11.6 times higher than in fully fished areas and 2.8 times greater than in a fished MPA.
- The marine reserve had greater biodiversity and provided better protection for branching corals than the fished MPA or the fully fished areas.


A reef scene at Kisite Marine National Park in Kenya.
Photo by Robert Tillner
A butterflyfish at Kisite Marine National Park.
Photo by Tim McClanahan

A Marine Reserve Boosts Abundance

Figure: A marine reserve in Kenya had more fish biomass than a fished MPA at a comparable site in Tanzania and surrounding waters that are open to fishing.
In 1973, Kenya established Kisite Marine National Park in an area of coral reefs along its southern coast. In the 1990s, authorities began to enforce rules that prohibited fishing, and the park became a marine reserve.
Across the border in Tanzania, local government in 1996 created Mtang’ata Collaborative Management Area, a marine protected area (MPA). This fished MPA is not a marine reserve, but regulations and enforcement have dramatically reduced the use of destructive fishing practices, such as dynamite fishing, poison fishing, beach seining, and dragging of nets.
Biologists conducted surveys of fish, coral, and seaweeds in 1996 and 2003- 2004. The study assessed the effectiveness of the Kisite marine reserve and the Mtang’ata fished MPA by comparing similar types of habitat at both locations with each other and with nearby unprotected reefs.
The scientists determined that reduced use of destructive fishing gear in the fished MPA had successfully increased fish stocks and had kept ecological diversity the same over the 8-year period. However, the site had fewer fish species overall than the marine reserve and did not adequately protect sensitive, branching corals because some fishing still occurred. At the marine reserve, scientists found that fish biomass was 2.8 times greater than at the fished MPA and 11.6 times greater than in fully fished areas. The marine reserve also had higher fish diversity, with an approximate total of 10 more fish species per area sampled than the fished MPA. Overall, both protected areas had more fish and biodiversity than unprotected areas.
This study demonstrates that the fished MPA provided some protection to fished stocks, but the marine reserve produced greater ecological benefits than the fished MPA.
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1. McClanahan TR, et al. (2006) Aquatic Conservation 16:147-165

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