Locally Marine Managed Areas (LMMAs) have been widely used for decades by coastal communities around the world (e.g. the Pacific) for the protection of marine resources and user rights. This practice is relatively new in Kenya where fishing is open access, and customary protection is severely undermined. Recent efforts to spur community participation in protecting their resources has therefore attracted remarkable interest across communities and conservationists.
LMMAs help in protecting both habitats and harvestable resources, such as fisheries, by giving them time to replenish. Immediate benefits include an increase in fisheries biomass in relatively shorter periods, which is impactful for organisms with shorter life spans such as octopus. LMMAs also allow for the recovery of habitats (e.g. mangroves, corals and seagrass beds), hence contributing to climate change mitigation. This form of conservation is important in sustaining blue economy actions.
Within the Shimoni-Vanga seascape, five communities, under; Jimbo, Kibuyuni, Mkwiro, Vanga and Wasini Beach Management Units (BMUs) are involved in conservation through LMMAs supported by the GEF-Small Grants Programme (SGP).
The five GEF-SGP funded LMMA projects aim to safeguard marine resources by protecting and expanding the LMMA area as well as building the capacity of the BMUs in combating illegal and destructive fishing. Increasing the area under LMMA coverage also ensures that more habitats and species are protected and fishers can benefit from increased spill-over effects of the LMMA. The BMUs are also focused on protecting their existing LMMAs for tourism purposes.
The BMUs have achieved the following milestones:
● Expansion of the Kibuyuni LMMA which has provided a buffer zone between the fishing areas and seaweed farms, thus reducing conflicts between fishers and seaweed farmers, the majority of whom are women
● Organisation of extensive awareness sessions across BMUs in the Shimoni-Vanga seascape and beyond, around measures put in place to protect seascape LMMAs
● Global publicity of the Wasini Village conservation activities through a feature in the Guardian online magazine