Coral restoration

Done by fisherman

Over the past six months, several agreements have been signed regarding the protection of the oceans. By 2030, thirty percent must be protected. But how do you convince a fisherman to leave the sea undisturbed? A small fishing village in Kenya sets a good example.

If you travel all the way to the south of Kenya, near the Tanzanian border, you will reach Wasini Island, a paradise-like place. On one side of the island lies a protected marine park with coral reefs, tropical fish, and dolphins. On the other side lies a channel between the island and the beach, where members of the community and local authorities have a say.

One of those people is Dosa Mshega. On the beach of the small village of Mkwiro, he sits alongside a group of old fishermen making their nets. “We’ve seen the fish catch decrease here,” says Mshega on behalf of the so-called Beach Management Unit. “We were catching less and less.”

You might think that the fishermen would want as much space as possible to catch some fish. However, instead, they agreed to establish a zone where nets are not cast. Mshega points to two red buoys in the water. “It’s a restricted area between those.”

New artificial reefs & outplanted coral

‘Thought coral was a kind of stone’

Much of the coral has been destroyed in the past. By leaving a portion of the sea undisturbed now, the community hopes that fishing will ultimately increase. In the protected part of the channel, there are now a variety of artificial coral reefs. These were placed there through a Kenyan-Dutch collaboration between the Beach Management Unit and a local diving center on one side, and Wageningen University and the Dutch Foundation REEFolution on the other.

“We used to think that coral was just a type of stone,” Mshega explains. “But now we know that coral reefs attract fish. Many fish are also born there and then swim to the areas outside the buoys. This way, we hope that protecting one area will lead to more fish in the other.”

Making this agreement was not easy, says marine biologist Ewout Knoester of Wageningen University, who lives in Kenya. “It took some time to find a village willing to cooperate with the project. But Mkwiro was immediately enthusiastic.” Local fishermen saw that something had to change. Furthermore, the project creates jobs: a portion of the local community has retrained as divers. They now do most of the breeding and restoration work on the artificial reef in the protected zone.

Watch the movie hosted on dutch national news

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