Date: 24th January 2013 GVI South Coast, Kenya Marine Research Programme Makes East Africa’s largest

wildlife magazine, SWARA. GVI’s Marine Research Programme was highlighted in SWARA, the East African Conservation Society Magazine, in the first issue of 2013. Kenya’s longest running cetacean monitoring and research programme was implemented by GVI in 2006, and has gone from strength to strength, with the development and implementation of the Kenya Marine Mammal Network (KMMN) in 2011. The Network is aimed at facilitating the reporting of cetacean sightings along the coast of Kenya in order to gain a more accurate understanding of cetacean abundance, habitat and movements along the coast, and now numbers 235 members. Identifying areas of ‘high importance’ is extremely important for the development of marine mammal conservation management strategies.

A humpback whale breaches off the Shimoni Coast; this picture was published in the Coastweek newspaper, highlighting the seasonal presence of humpback whales in Kenya. Photo credit: Chloe Corne

Written by GVI’s Sergi Perez, Zeno Wijtten, and the Watamu Marine Association’s Jane Spilsbury and Steve Trott SWARA’s story emphasises the need for cetacean monitoring in Kenya, due to the increasing numbers of

threats to cetaceans today, such as by-catch, overfishing, unregulated dolphin watching activities and loss of habitat. To date, GVI and Watamu Marine Association (WMA) have recorded more than 1300 cetacean sightings; with 80 known resident dolphins in the KMMPA and 81 residents at Watamu; at least three of these individuals regularly travel between Kisite and Watamu, a minimum distance of 140km. This emphasises the need for more data collection, and greater protection measures and management strategies along Kenya’s coast.

Left: An Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin jumps next to a tourist dhow in the KMMPA. Right: Spinner Dolphins in the deeper water next to the KMMPA.

Making the magazine comes as the highlight in a year of positive publicity of the work that the marine team is undertaking on a daily basis. Other publications in the media include the Coastweek article in August 2012 highlighting the presence of the Indian Ocean humpback whales along Kenya’s coast during their seasonal migration north to mate and give birth away from the rigours of the Antarctic winter. GVI’s involvement was highlighted by a photograph of a breaching adult humpback whale (see photo above). Participation in a Synchronised Whale Watching Day in order to get an accurate count of whales along the East African coast also gained recognition for GVI in the East African Humpback Whale Network (based in Tanzania). A regional workshop was held in late 2012 as part of the Convention for Biological Diversity (1992); the purpose was to facilitate the description of ecologically or biologically significant areas (EBSA). Delegates from the North and Western Indian Ocean (Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa) “specifically proposed three areas that met the EBSA criteria: Kisite-Mpunguti MPA, Lamu-Kiunga area and Watamu area.” (KMMN newsletter, January 2013). As such, it is crucial to continue monitoring of all four cetacean species and coral reef health found in the area. As the socio-economic benefits of a tourist industry based on cetacean watching and snorkelling/diving activities are significant (generating more income annually than artisanal fishing), research is also directed at the potential impacts of cetacean watching activities. If you would like to read more about the project, please visit http://www.gvi.co.uk/programs/volunteerdolphins-kenya or http://www.gvi.co.uk/programs/community-and-conservation-expedition-kenya