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Reprieve for Coastal strip as Kenya's coral reefs improve.

Fishermen can now breathe with a sigh of relief after new report showed the state of coral reefs in the country have significantly improved.

The Coral reef status report for the Western Indian Ocean 2017 shows that hard coral cover has increased from 10 per cent in 1990s to 60 per cent.

In 2003, the hard coral cover was below five per cent.

Healthy coral reefs support commercial and subsistence fisheries as well as jobs and businesses through tourism and recreation.

Hard coral cover significantly increased from 2004 from about 15 percent to about 30 per cent 2009.

In 2015, the hard coral cover in the country deteriorated to 15 per cent before improving to the current 60 per cent.

This is the finding are from the latest Global Coral Reef Monitoring regional report on the state of coral reefs of the Western Indian Ocean.

The report shows that the decline in coral reef health resulted from major coral bleaching in 1998 that resulted in 25 per cent loss and another 10 per cent loss in 2016.

It was officially presented on December, 7, 2017 in Nairobi, during the 32nd General Assembly of the International Coral Reef Initiative.

The report is a joint output of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, the Indian Ocean Commission, Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean.

Others are United Nations Environment's Nairobi Convention Coral Reef Task Force and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission's Coral Specialist Group.

Kenya has rich and diverse coral reefs of great importance, both ecologically and socioeconomically; as major fishing grounds, tourist attractions and coastal protection.

Numerous patches of reefs and extensive fringing reef are located along about two-thirds of Kenya's coastline.

These reefs have been under threats from a variety of stresses including over exploitation, nutrient pollution, and use of destructive fishing methods.

Global climate change is also a threat.

Long-term monitoring has been pursued by Kenyan institutions since 1998/99, to follow the trends and status of corals and fish populations at a country level.

The report compiled reef data sets of corals and fish from different data providers and developed into a national reef database to allow extensive evaluation of reef status.

'On average, coral cover declined by 25 per cent - from 40 pe rcent before 1998 to 30 per cent after 1998,' the report states.

According to the report, algal cover increased by 2.5 times after 1998, from 15 per cent before to about 35 per cent after.

The report says hard coral cover was highest in fully protected areas and Community Conservation areas at levels of less than 27percent and 31per cent, respectively.

'All fish families showed high variation in abundance among sites, with the abundance of some commercially important fish such as the Acanthuridae, Lethrinidae, Lutjanidae, and Haemulidae being relatively higher less than 500 individuals per ha,' the report says.

The report says that open access reefs had consistently the lowest hard coral cover at 38 per cent.

'Comparing the 2016 event with past bleaching events, it was not as severe as in 1998, when 50-90 per cent loss of corals was estimated along most parts of the Kenyan coast. Other milder bleaching events have been noted in 1987 and 1994.'

In 2016, the 3rd global bleaching event impacted the Western Indian Ocean, with 30 per cent of reefs showing evidence of high or severe bleaching, but only 10 per cent showing high or severe mortality.

'The threat from all major drivers of reef decline has increased and is projected to continue to increase in the coming decades - ocean warming and acidification, human population growth and development in the coastal zone, expanding global trade,' the report warns.

The global coral bleaching event in 1998 saw 30-50 per cent of corals died.

Mozambique's hard coral reefs was below five percent in 2014.

Coral reefs are important for many different reasons aside from supposedly containing the most diverse ecosystems on the planet.

They protect coastlines from the damaging effects of wave action and tropical storms and provide habitats and shelter for many marine organisms.

Coral reefs are the source of nitrogen and other essential nutrients for marine food chains. They also assist in carbon and nitrogen fixing.

Fishing industry depends on coral reefs as many fish spawn and juvenile fish spend time there before making their way to the open sea.

They are home to more than 140 species of hard and soft corals.

The report urges Kenya to apply and strengthen policies and strategies for coral reef protection and restoration.
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Publication:The Star (Nairobi, Kenya)
Geographic Code:6KENY
Date:Dec 20, 2017
Words:869
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