Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Community Conservation And Environmental Education At The Other End Of The Island

Today was a little different for the marine research team of GVI staff and volunteers as they headed to the other end of Wasini Island to give a series of lectures to the Wasini Locally Managed Marine Area (WLMMA) group. we headed out of Mkwiro village in two groups; one on foot along the mangroves on the south shore of the island, the other in Squirrel our trusty dinghy, heading West down the channel to Wasini village.

On arrival we were ushered to the football club by Feisal, one of the WLMMA committee. We waited patiently for the rest of the community participants to arrive and then begun with a prayer by one of the village elders, a man of eminent presence, dressed head to toe in flowing white topped off with traditional kofia, but with a modern edge about him; hearing aid and flashy shades! Before the presentations kicked off, we all introduced ourselves, and learnt that amongst the members of the WLMMA were a number of fishermen and village elders, confirming that this was a community serious about managing their marine resources.

The WLMMA committee begun in 2003 when NGO PACT Kenya visited to educate local communities about the value of their environment and ways to conserve it to ensure long term sustainable resource use and highlighting particular marine habitats around their village that were susceptible to the negative impacts of unregulated fishing and tourism.

The locally managed marine area of Wasini runs from the West tip of the island around the coastline to mid-way along the long north shore of the island, encompassing several mangrove areas and the reef in front of the village. The group have already introduced mooring buoys to mitigate the damage done by anchors and have daily boat patrols to apprehend anyone fishing illegally, including spear0gun fishing and dynamite fishing.

Another objective of the group is to take tourists out to their reef for snorkeling trips, and our job today was to educate the group on several aspects of the marine environment including; conservation, mangrove ecology, marine mammal biology with whale and dolphin species identification, sea turtles, reef fish and practical aspects of marketing and company etiquette! The presentations went brilliantly with our students becoming very involved, asking many questions and teaching our volunteers kiswahili names for the wildlife and some local traditions associated with them.

After a 'chai and cake' break in their new 'eco' restaurant with the Wasini delicacy of sea grass on the menu, we had a game of football with the children and were the taken out snorkeling, which was an amazing experience. We had been warned that we wouldn't see fish reach the enormous sizes we are used to in the nationally protected Kisite Marine Park, but it did not damper the experience, with everything in miniature instead. Amongst the wonderful diversity, we saw anemone fish, an Indian lionfish lurking beneath an overhanging rock, black-saddled tobies, juvenile black snappers and an emperor angel fish elegantly gliding around the reef. A very rewarding day from start to finish!