Blue Solution: The ‘Science for Active Management’ program - Applying science to MPA management

MPA News

Editor’s note: The Blue Solutions initiative supports the exchange of successful approaches to marine and coastal conservation and development — sharing what worked where and why. Each case is authored by a practitioner and is published on the Marine and Coastal Solutions portal of the Panorama web platform. MPA News is drawing from these cases.

By Jennifer O’Leary, California Polytechnic State University (adapted by MPA News)

In 2009, the Kenya Wildlife Service and California Polytechnic State Institute jointly established the Science for Active Management program (SAM) to help East African MPA managers and local fishers understand and manage their reefs. At first the program focused on a single Kenyan MPA. At that site, managers had a very low understanding of marine systems and the MPA had lost many corals. Fishers felt disengaged from MPA management and were not contributing actively to management of their fishing grounds. Most people who worked on the beaches serving vacationers had no knowledge of marine ecosystems, and the beaches had been polluted with plastic trash for decades.

Through SAM, managers, fishers, and beach stakeholders received training in marine ecological and socioeconomic systems, and learned to conduct scientifically sound monitoring. The project guided MPA managers and fishers through the process of developing measurable social and ecological objectives for marine systems. MPA rangers and stakeholders then started monthly monitoring of ecological and social factors to document changes in the system as they occurred.

The results have exceeded expectations:

  • For five years now, rangers and stakeholders have been collecting and analyzing data, and their research has shown to be of comparable quality to that of experienced researchers. The rangers are now training their peers in monitoring and management techniques.

  • Managers have based their actions on the monitoring data, including instituting a coral restoration program with help from fishers.

  • The County Government has made plastic-free beaches a priority. More than 550 local people attended a recent beach cleanup, including police forces, hoteliers, beach vendors, and the Minister of Tourism.

  • Beach vendors have become MPA ambassadors, resulting in an increase in domestic tourism to MPAs.

The SAM program has since been applied to other sites. In Kenya, it is in practice at all four national MPAs (Malindi, Watamu, Mombasa, and Kisite). In neighboring Tanzania, it has been piloted at Mafia Island National Park, and will soon be rolled out nationally to all marine parks and reserves. And in the Seychelles, the national parks authority is holding a national training on SAM for all MPAs.

For more information on this case, please visit the Panorama web platform.

For the SAM program website, click here.