Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association

Developing a model for strategic adaptive management of MPAs in the Western Indian Ocean

Project Objectives

The goal of this project is to develop an MPA management system that is responsive to changing environmental conditions and ensures effective management of MPAs in WIO for achievement of MPA goals. To attain this goal the project has three objectives, which are to:

i) Assess the use of scientific information in MPA management &decision making in the WIO
ii) Assess the impact of SAM on management effectiveness of MPAs in the WIO
iii) Develop and disseminate SAM knowledge products


The project will be done in Mombasa, Malindi, Watamu and Kisite Marine Parks and Reserves in Kenya and Mafia Island Marine Park in Tanzania. These sites encompass four main ecosystem types: coral reef, seagrass, mangrove, and sandy beach. Mombasa, Malindi, and Watamu are coastal sites bound by fringing reefs, while Kisite and Mafia are offshore, island sites. The sites all experience external fishing pressure, though to varying degrees, and are subject to other external pressures such as climate change, sedimentation and pollution, and coastal development.

Expected Results

Expected outcomes of the project are:

i) Understanding of barriers to use of scientific data in WIO MPA management
ii) Tested strategy (SAM) to link science and management in WIO and overcome barriers
iii) Improved management effectiveness at 5 MPAs in Kenya and Tanzania
iv) A nationally institutionalized SAM programme in Kenya
v) Broad acceptance of the importance of SAM throughout WIO, including manager acceptance of the scientific process of ‘learning by doing’
vi) SAM program replicated in WIO MPAs
vii) Enhanced communication / data sharing between scientists and managers in WIO
viii) Enhanced outreach and coordination between MPA managers and stakeholders
ix) Enhanced conservation of ecological communities within coral reefs, beaches, seagrass beds, and mangroves due to more effective and proactive MPA management
x) Enhanced ecosystem services provided to coastal communities due to more effective and proactive MPA management
xi) World recognition of WIO as a region at the forefront of effective MPA management

Basic Facts

Acronym: SAM
Duration: 36 months (October 2013 – September 2016)
Project Reference: MASMA/OP/2013/03
Budget: US$ 599 950
WIOMSA Contribution: US$ 479 950
Project Coordinator: Arthur Tuda

Project Partners:

Kenya Wildlife Services, Marine Parks and Reserves Unit of Tanzania, Calpoly University (USA) and OneReef (USA). The Project implementation sites include four marine protected areas in Kenya (Kisite, Mombasa, Malindi and Watamu and two in Tanzania (Mafia and Tanga)

Lead Institution: Kenya Wildlife Services
Year of Approval: 2013
Project Country: Comoros and South Africa
Investigators: Arthur Tuda, Jennifer OLeary, Milali Muchumu, Albert Gamoe, Mohamed O.S. Mohamed, Judith Nyunja, and Amin Abdallah
Study Sites:
Project Activities:

Changes in MPA Management

  1. Kenya adopted the SAM approach to data-driven and adaptive management as a nationwide approach.  All 4 Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) MPAs are now operating with SAM (Kisite, Mombasa, Watamu, and Malindi).  KWS agreed upon nationwide management objectives with targets and is using those to guide management.  Each MPA has a consistent monthly monitoring program that allows managers to do rapid assessment of MPA conditions.  In addition, we worked with KWS to develop a data request for for external researchers that helps get other data in a format the managers understand and can immediately utilize. All 5 MPAs now maintain their own databases for beach and marine data, and evaluate status monthly.
  2. Tanzania launched a pilot program in management using SAM at Mafia Island Marine Park in 2014.  In March 2016, the Tanzania Marine Parks and Reserve Unit of Tanzanian (MPRU) decided to use SAM nationwide at all Marine Parks and National Reserves. We held an initial meeting to draft a list of preliminary management objectives.  The task agreed upon before September is that all MPAs in Tanzania will hold community meetings to independently evaluate community preferences for management objectives for MPAs.  We also conducted a scientific survey to evaluate scientific preferences on management objectives.  By the end of September, MPRU will compare these 3 draft lists and elect a final suite of agreed up to 12 nationwide MPA objectives.  At that point, Dr. Jennifer O’Leary will work with MPRU to set scientifically peer reviewed targets for each objective.
  3. Each MPA operating using the SAM approach has felt the approach has fundamentally changed management.  Staff indicate a much improved level of knowledge about marine systems and confidence in problem solving (across all 5 current SAM MPAs).  In addition, staff motivation to take conservation action has greatly increased. As a result, numerous new management actions have happened through SAM including: Monthly removal of trash from beaches and islands and maintenance of clean sites (all 5 MPAs), removal of beach seines from the fished reserve (Mombasa), removal of invasive cactus and sisal as well as vibandas (wooden kiosks) covering sea turtle nesting sites (Mombasa, Watamu, and Malindi), establishment of a community business using recycled flip flops collected during trash cleanup (Kisite), joint research between fishermen and MPA staff to evaluate fish spillover (Mombasa), joint fisher-staff coral restoration projects (Kisite and Mombasa), movement of turtle nests endangered by location (Mombasa, Kisite, and Watamu), installation of new mooring buoys to reduce coral breakage (Kisite, Watamu, Malindi, and Mafia), removal of crown-of-thorns sea stars following a massive outbreak (Mafia), increase in MPA staff swimming skills from <50% at each MPA to 80-100% at each MPA (all 5 MPAs), working with researchers to establish mangrove management plan (Mafia), and developing a plan with global experts to eradicate invasive rats from an island (Kisite). Furthermore, all 5 MPAs indicate that staff from all levels and stakeholders now participate in management decision making (and that this did not happen prior to SAM).
  4. Chumbe Island Coral Gardens, a privately owned and managed MPA, adopted SAM and is in the process of developing SMART objectives.
  5. The Kiunga MPA in Kenya (jointly managed by WWF & KWS) will be launching SAM in the month of May 2016. KWS and WWF are partnering in this endeavour.
  6. Mauritius is in the process of developing an official request for the SAM Program.
  7. A publication is being developed on the SAM approach and outcomes based on data collected twice a year on MPA management during site visits.
Validation of MPA Field Ecological Monitoring
  1. In February and March, 2016, the KWS Marine Research Team (with Jennifer O’Leary) conducted side-by-side monitoring with all 4 MPAs in Kenya to determine data accuracy of data collected by MPA staff.
  2. In March & April 2016, the KWS Marine Research Team is conducting thorough annual surveys of all 4 of KWS’s MPAs to capture status prior to the anticipated bleaching event.
Ecological Science
Five MPAs (Kisite, Mombasa, Malindi Watamu and Mafia) have now begun  coral bleaching monitoring activities. Staff capacity in identification of coral bleaching in high following continued training. Mafia Island MPA has reported major bleaching at several sites and is conducting outreach to local communities and agencies.  In Kenya, minor bleaching has been reported at Malindi and Watamu MPAs and all MPAs are continuing surveying at least monthly but in some cases (Kisite and Mafia) twice a month.
Social Science
  1. We conducted a survey of use and access to data for management decision-making across 9 WIO nations and including 50 MPA managers.  We are preparing to submit the results for review as a publication. Results were also presented by Mr. Arthur Tuda at the WIOMSA Conference in 2015.
  2. Bjorn Schulte-Herbruggen of the Stockholm Resilience Center joined SAM to develop social science research aspects of the program.  Bjorn has designed a comprehensive social survey of MPA staff adaptive capacity within national governmental frameworks.  The survey was carried out with 18 staff from Tanzania (including all national and site-level leaders) and will be carried out in Seychelles in August and in Kenya in September 2016.
  3. Jennifer O’Leary has been supervising (with guidance from Bjorn Schulte-Herbruggen) 2 California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) students in entry and analysis of social survey data collected from MPA staff, fishermen, beach vendors, and the public (400 surveys) at Mombasa Marine Park.  We plan to submit a paper for publication by September 2016. In addition, student Michelle Meyers received Cal Poly funding to travel to Kenya to conduct additional surveys at MPAs (semi-structured interviews) and to learn about SAM in September 2016.
Developing a WIO-wide MPA Management Network
  1. The SAM Program created a Facebook group that allows managers to post status updates relevant to MPAs and ask questions of colleagues.  The group currently has 227 members from WIO MPAs and related WIO management agencies. Every SAM MPA is now posting monthly on activities and status, and several MPA managers have used the site to ask questions about coral bleaching, sea turtle disease, and management approaches.  The site has created some competition between MPAs to keep up with colleagues in SAM and has resulted in initiatives started in one MPA (e.g. invasive removal and trash cleanup in Mombasa) being picked up as initiatives in other SAM MPAs.
  2. SAM hosts a Twitter account with 250 global followers
  3. SAM hosts a website explaining the approach and highlighting achievements.  The website gets an average of 70 page views and 45 unique visitors per week.
Data Management & Computer/Smart Phone Systems
  1. Jennifer O’Leary has been working with 4 California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) computer programming students and one faculty (Dr. Lynne Slivovsky) to develop an online data entry and management system for SAM MPAs.  We anticipate that the system will be ready for trial and potential release by June 2016.
  2. Two Cal Poly computer engineering students are working on a smart phone application that will have identification information and photographs of key corals, seagrass, mangrove, fish, and invertebrate species.  We envision a launch in June 2016.
Public Presentations &  Working Groups
  1. Jennifer O’Leary presented about SAM at numerous venues including: 1) San Francisco State University, 2) California Polytechnic State University, 3) the Ocean Institute, & 4) the WIOMSA Conference 2015.
  2. Jennifer O’Leary, Arthur Tuda, and Amin Abdallah led a session on how scientists can contribute effectively to management at the 2015 WIOMSA Conference. O’Leary is writing up results (from collective opinions of 20 WIO researchers from 5 nations) as a policy brief for the region.
  3. In 2016, Mr. Tuda will be giving a key note talk at the Society for Conservation Biology Africa Conference in Morrocco.  Jennifer O’Leary & Arthur Tuda will be presenting on SAM at the International Coral Reef Symposium, and Jennifer will present at the International Marine Conservation Conference.
  4. Jennifer O’Leary and Arthur Tuda have collaborated with scientists from NOAA and USFWS from the USA to co-lead a symposium session on linking science and data to MPA management in a global context at the International Coral Reef Symposium in June 2016.  In addition, Jennifer is co-leading a similar session with Angela Bednarek (Pew Foundation) on making a conservation impact through science at the International Marine Conservation Conference in August 2016.
Training tools
  1. SAM has developed a full suite of training presentations in an on-going capacity building for MPA staff. The training materials have been released to participating MPA managers and agencies
  2. A SAM Workbook is in preparation and expected to be released by September 2016.
Global Collaborations Resulting from SAM
  1. Jennifer O’Leary and global seagrass expert Emmett Duffy are collaborating to develop a working group of researchers to evaluate global seagrass data and determine appropriate monitoring methods and targets for managers.  A proposal is being submitted to SNAP at UC Santa Barbara to host this working group, which will include global scientists and managers (with representatives from the WIO region invited).  Results will directly inform SAM MPAs.
  2. We developed a collaboration with scientists from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia (Heike Lotze and Haley Guest) on studies of public perception of marine protection globally.  SAM data is being included in a publication being drafted by Guest and including Tuda and O’Leary as co-authors.
  3. SAM PIs are now working with Sue Wells, Nyarwira Muthiga, and Mary Sue Brancato on conducting a WIO-wide MPA effectiveness evaluation.
  4. KWS has initiated a coral reef restoration program jointly with Wangeningen University (https://www.wageningenur.nl/en/project/Reefolution-Kenya.htm). The project is aimed at enhancing resilience of coral reefs by setting up sustainable coral nursery and facilitating reef restoration.

1)”Saving coral reefs in the Western Indian Ocean“ in the CBD Newsletter of July 2014- Square Bracket (http://www.cbd.int/ngo/square-brackets/square-brackets-2014-07-en.pdf)
2)Using Science to Empower Communities and Improve Marine Protected Areas in East Africa in the National Geographic of February 2015 (http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2015/02/24/using-science-to-empower-communities-and-improve-marine-protected-areas-in-east-africa/)
3) National Geographic Web Article on Ocean Views 2005: A Kenyan fisherman and conservationist
4) Society for Conservation Biology – African Conservation Telegraph 2005: Using Science to inform Marine Protected Area Management in Kenya

Students Supported by the Project and Titles of their Projects

i) Arthur TUDA (University of Cadiz, Spain)- investigating adaptive capacity of marine governance regimes in Kenya and Tanzania – PhD student

ii) Frida Obare (University of Nairobi) – Setting baselines for turtle nesting objective for Kenya MPAs. MSc student

iii) Margaret Awour Owour –  Assessing adaptive collaborative management of mangrove ecosystems in Watamu Marine Reserve (PhD student)

iv) Juliet Karisa, Ph.D. Candidate National Taiwan Normal University is working on testing indicators of reef resilience in Kenya and has been assisting with SAM monitoring and annual KWS surveys.

For more details about the project:

Visit the project website:




Arthur Tuda (PI),
Kenya Wildlife Service,
P.O. Box 82144, Mombasa, Kenya
Email: tudahke@yahoo.com