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Knowledge – improving lives in ocean and coastal systems


Sharing experiences, successes and challenges is a really important way in which we learn.  Recently, my colleagues and I were lucky enough to attend the ninth Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) scientific symposium in South Africa to showcase our work in Lamu and exchange ideas with colleagues working in similar fields elsewhere in the region.

It was my first trip to South Africa and I was excited! The symposium was held in an area known as the Wild Coast Region which stretches from East London in the south to the border of KwaZulu-Natal in the north. It is the traditional home of the Xhosa people and the birthplace of prominent South Africans, including Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.  Once known as the Transkei homeland, the Region encompasses a stretch of cliff faces, beautiful beaches and rich tidal estuaries.

WIOMSA is a regional, non-profit, organisation which works to promote the educational, scientific and technological development of marine sciences in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO).  The Western Indian Ocean region refers to the African coastal states of Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa, together with the Indian Ocean island states of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion and Seychelles. The WIOMSA biennial conference provides a platform for marine scientists from the countries, and from around the world, to share results and learning and to discuss the implications of this on marine conservation.

The theme of this year’s symposium was “Knowledge – improving lives in ocean and coastal systems” and there was certainly a lot of knowledge on offer – more than 250 oral and poster presentations were given over the course of the symposium. We presented our work on “Spatial and temporal trends of nesting sea turtles in the Lamu Archipelago, Kenya” which looks at marine turtle data in the Lamu seascape over the last 20 years -more on that soon!  The audience was surprised to learn that, on average we record 150 marine turtle nests each year, a previously unknown fact.

Green turtle hatchling coming out of egg. © Roger Hooper / WWF-CanonGreen turtle hatchling coming out of egg. © Roger Hooper / WWF-Canon

We also presented two posters: “Reducing pressure on Marine fisheries through livelihoods diversification” and “Fisheries co-management: A case study of Lamu – Tana seascape, Kenya” and I’ll be providing more information about each of these topics in future blogs.

Formal presentations done, the symposium was also a fantastic opportunity to connect with experts in the areas we’re working in and start to create synergies. One such partnership was formed with Dr Jérôme Bourjea who is a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Marine Turtle Specialist Group and an expert on all things marine turtle related.  He was able to provide advice on how to develop our work on marine turtles, particularly thinking about data collection and the sharing of that information. We hope this is just the start of a valuable partnership.

One of Mike's colleagues with a mairne turtle during a patrol and tagging excercise, Mwongo Shariff beach, Rubu Island © WWF-KenyaOne of Mike’s colleagues with a marine turtle during a patrol and tagging excercise, Mwongo Shariff beach, Rubu Island © WWF-Kenya

Thank you from the field to players of People’s Postcode Lottery. When you play, you keep our work here in Kenya going, and help to protect beautiful habitats and wildlife such as marine turtles. Our experiences at the WIOMSA symposium will help us to strengthen our work going forward and we could not have attended the symposium without your support, so thank you again!

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