ICCB 2023 – Keynote Address by Dr. Melita Samoilys



Communication Manager

Fish, fishers and fisheries! Read this summary of the keynote address of our director, Dr. Melita Samoilys, during the 31st International Conference for Conservation Biology (ICCB). The event was held in Kigali, Rwanda, from July 23 to July 27, 2023.

In her keynote address at the just-concluded 2023 International Congress for the Conservation of Biology, CORDIO Director, Dr. Melita Samoilys, spoke about the triple nexus of her research and conservation work in the Indian Ocean: coral reefs, small-scale fisheries, and conservation and policy. With coral reefs a “canary in the coalmine” for climate change, she addressed the need for their rigorous monitoring, presenting a more incisive approach to deriving metrics and indicators for coral reef fishes. Dr. Samoilys further discussed her investigations of local fisheries in Kenya, motivated by the paucity of research on the impact of local fisheries on coral reef fish populations. CORDIO’s exploration of small-scale fisheries has examined the impact of artisanal fishing gears on fish density, confirming pressure on select species, and proposing policy and conservation measures for redress. 

Dr. Samoilys giving her address. (Photo by Jon Paul Rodríguez, IUCN)

Driving home to the call to robust conservation action and policy, Dr. Samoilys mentioned CORDIO’s success with Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs), fishing community sensitization and adoption of species-protective fishing practices, and multistakeholder engagement on issues as varied as the protection of Kenya’s sharks and rays. CORDIO is currently steering the development of a shark conservation strategy for Kenya.

Dr. Samoilys and CORDIO staff during a survey expedition
Discussing fish density indicators at the progress National Coral Reef Assessment workshop.
Dr. Samoilys during a recent fish survey
Fishermen deploying a modified basket trap
Collecting fish data during an ecological survey

“Funding for monitoring is vital. Without monitoring data, we will never know what impact our conservation is having” – Dr. Melita Samoilys, Director, CORDIO East Africa

In closing, Dr. Samoilys affirmed that all was not “doom and gloom’’, particularly with western Indian Ocean coral reefs which appear resilient in several locations. Despite challenges in financing, enforcement and compliance, and in overall capacity, there are promising successes. She also emphasised the importance of ongoing monitoring and the value of historic datasets and the need for more collaboration between academic researchers and conservation practitioners.


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