Our research recently published in the Journal Fisheries Research shows Kenya’s coral reef fishery catch rates have declined 4-fold since the mid 1980s and species diversity in catches has declined to 2-3 species in the top 65% bracket. Management changes are proposed to ensure these fisheries continue to provide livelihoods and food security on the Kenyan coast. We also report that fully protected sites (Marine Parks) have higher reef fish population densities than elsewhere but over decades even these have declined.We combined a range of fishery and fish population descriptors to analyze Kenya’s coral reef fish and fisheries over a 20 year period from the 1980s, to determine the sustainability of current fishing levels and provide recommendations for management. Fishers report over 13 different artisanal fishing gears but there are only data for the five widely used gears.
Gillnets are particularly poorly reported – as one gear yet their sub-types span >40cm in mesh size. Average catch rates declined 4-fold from the mid1980s to the 1990s and then stabilized, likely maintained by shifting proportions of species in the catches. Patterns in fish population densities over time show Marine National Parks have helped increase densities of emperors and sweetlips and reduced the decline in densities of parrotfish and surgeonfish, but National Reserves have had no positive effect. We suggest that the National Parks, which are No Take Zones (NTZs), and the fisheries regulations inside and outside of Reserves are inadequate for maintaining or restoring reef fishery target families under current levels of fishing pressure. We recommend species–specific management options, changes in and enforcement of gear regulations and many more effective NTZs are needed urgently if these fisheries are to continue to provide livelihoods and food security on the Kenyan coast.