Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association

Advancing adaptive co-management of small-scale fisheries in East Africa

Project Objectives

The goal of this proposed project is to improve coral reef health and nearshore fisheries in the WIO by improving the likelihood of long-term, effective and active participation of coastal communities in adaptive co-management. This will strengthen the ability of coastal communities to meet both socioeconomic (food security and sustainable fisheries management) and conservation objectives. We will address the broad question ‘What is the influence of context on the nature of the co-management
process?’ Institutional design principals are one measure of context in common resource pool regimes (Ostrom 1990; Ostrom et al. 1999). We hypothesis that in the context of the co-management arrangements that we will be studying, there are some key design principals that are more important than others in predicting the success of co-management.
Our specific objectives are, by the year 2017 to:
i) Strengthen understanding of, and community capacity in, existing comanagement initiatives in Kenya, Madagascar and Tanzania;
ii) Conduct research on (1) the performance of community fisheries closures over time and (2) how different socioeconomic conditions influence how people and communities adopt and maintain fisheries management initiatives; and
iii) Improve understanding of communications channels in order to improve cross-site, cross-institutional and cross-regional learning and implementation of management actions.


The project will use a variety of methods including desktop reviews, biophysical and socioeconomic assessments, semi-structured surveys, focus group discussions and network analysis. The project will be participatory involving the key stakeholders at the project sites.


Study sites

  • Kenya: Bureni, Mradi and Msumarini tengefu
  • Tanzania: Dambwe and Maziwe reserves
  • Madagascar: Ankarea and Ankivonjy LMMA
Expected Results

The anticipated outcomes of the project include:

i) Increased effectiveness of collaborative fisheries management through consistent use of adaptive co-management and leadership skills at the target sites;
ii) Improved coral reef health in project sites as a result of implementing management actions that reduce destructive practices and that promote recovery;
iii) An increase in the ability of fishers/governments to co-manage small-scale fisheries in the WIO, directly resulting from an improved understanding of the social, institutional and governance factors that impede or promote co-management effectiveness; and
iv) Effective stewardship of coastal and marine ecosystems by informed fishers, communities and resource management institutions and stakeholders.

Basic Facts

Duration: 36 months (October 2013 – September 2016)
Project Reference:
Budget: US$ 600 000
WIOMSA Contribution: US$ 480 000
Project Coordinator: Nyawira MUTHIGA

Project Partners:

Wildlife Conservation Society (Kenya); ARC Center for Excellence in Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University (Australia) and University of Dar es Salaam. Co-investigators and collaborators are Kenya Marine & Fisheries Research Institute, Ministry of Fisheries Development, Kuruwitu and Kanamai BMU representatives, Msumarini community representatives and District Fisheries office Kilifi district (Kenya); Wildlife Conservation Society (Madagascar), Institut Halieutique et des Sciences Marines (IH.SM) and Ankivonji and Ankarea LMMA Committee (Madagascar); Regional Commissioners office, Tanga Coelacanth Marine Park, Chumbe Island Coral Park, District Fisheries Officer Pangani district and Village Council representatives (Tanzania) and Stockholm Resilience Center, Stockholm University (Sweden)

Lead Institution: Wildlife Conservation Society (Kenya)
Year of Approval: 2014
Project Country: Comoros, Kenya, and South Africa
Investigators: Nyawira Muthiga, Joshua E. Cinner, Albogast Kamukuru, Tim McClanahan, Nina N.Wambiji, Elizabeth Mueni, Ambroise Brenier, Bemahafaly Randriamanantsoa, Santisy Andriamiravo Abdoul, Roberto Jean Luc Komeno, Hassan Kalombo, January Ndagala, Amiri Shekiondo, and Beatrice Crona
Study Sites:
Project Activities:

The project activities include:

– An evaluation of adaptive co-management in the WIO

– Consultative meetings to discuss the project

– Baseline institutional, socioeconomic and ecological assessments

– Adaptive management plan development and design of management actions

– Training in adaptive management and other skills (administration, leadership, enforcement)

– Monitoring implementation of management actions and ecological and socioeconomic changes

– Empirical studies on a) the performance of community fisheries closures, b) the adoption of a gear management (escape gap trap) intervention, and c) network analysis of communication channels for small-scale fisheries management

– Communication of results


1. McClanahan TR, Muthiga NA, Abunge C, Kamukuru AT, Mwakalapa E, Kalombo H. (in press) What happens after conservation and management donor’s leave? a before and after study of coral reef ecology and stakeholder perceptions of management benefits. PlosOne.
2. McClanahan T, Muthiga NA, Abunge CA (in press) Current status, challenges and opportunities in the establishment of community managed fisheries closures in Kenya. Coastal Management.
3. Samoilys M, Osuka K, Muthiga N, Harris A (2015) Locally managed fisheries in the western Indian Ocean: a review of past and present initiatives. Report for MacArthur Foundation.

Students Supported by the Project and Titles of their Projects


Emmanuel Mbaru, January Ndagala, Eliezer Mwakalapa, Cavine Omondi, Maxwell Azali, Jesse Kosgei

For more details about the project:

Nyawira Muthiga,
Wildlife Conservation Society,
P.O. Box 99470, Mombasa
Email: nmuthiga@wcs.org