Innovation for Lobsters in Pate Marine Community Conservancy


In an effort to nurture lobster fisheries, Pate Marine Community Conservancy has developed a simple, innovative way to provide lobsters with a safe place to breed. 

 A Pate ranger throws a potential lobster home into the ocean. Photo: Mohamed Hussein Kasim

A Pate ranger throws a potential lobster home into the ocean. Photo: Mohamed Hussein Kasim

As part of their duties, rangers in Pate frequently take part in community beach clean up events, and raise awareness amongst their villages about ocean pollution. So to anyone in a passing boat, the sight of Pate rangers throwing 50 used car tyres into the sea last month would have seemed more than a little contradictory. 

In fact, these used tyres are an innovative way to protect the fisheries that support so many livelihoods on Pate Island. 

As the human population grows along Kenya's coast, fisheries and marine habitats that support them are coming under increased pressure from overfishing and pollution. More than 12,000 people are directly employed in the fisheries industry here, while many more earn a living from coastal tourism, and other coast-specific enterprises.  

That is why, with support from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Lamu County Government and State Department for Fisheries and the Blue Economy, NRT-Coast is helping coastal conservancies to develop fisheries co-management plans, based on science. These plans aim to create resilient mangroves, coral reefs, and other marine habitats by establishing gear-restriction and seasonal fishing zones.

Pate Conservancy was the first of the coastal conservancies to develop a co-management plan, which was created in partnership with (and is now implemented by) 10 community Beach Management Units (BMUs). These are legally recognized entities under the Kenyan fisheries policy that give local communities legitimate jurisdiction over their fisheries.

 Lobster cages off Pate Island. Photo: George Maina

Lobster cages off Pate Island. Photo: George Maina

Pate is now being used as a model for the other coastal conservancies to follow suit, and the co-management plan has paved the way for the development of fisheries-specific management interventions, such as lobster. 

"Lobster is one of the most important commercial fisheries here" says Hassan Yusuf, Conservancy Development Officer for NRT-Coast. "Fishers have reported declining catches over the last few decades, and this is mainly because of overfishing and habitat destruction."

Support from partners has enabled the Pate Conservancy fisher community to identify potential lobster breeding and feeding sites. This information has helped design Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) around Pate Island, where some gear restriction and no-take-areas are marked with buoys. 

It was the genius idea of Pate’s Chairman, Mr. Mohamed Kassim, to use old car tyres in the LMMAs to help rebuild lobster stocks. “These tyres provide artificial habitats for lobsters to breed, and hide from predation” says Mohammed. He also hopes the tyres will attract other fish species, and create opportunities for snorkel tourism.


 A ranger in Kiunga Conservancy releases undersized lobsters back into the ocean. Photo: NRT. 

A ranger in Kiunga Conservancy releases undersized lobsters back into the ocean. Photo: NRT. 

The management plans for lobster fisheries will eventually enable fishermen to qualify for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, giving them access to a wider market and better prices. This link between conservation and better livelihoods is helping to drive local support and ownership of the fisheries plans. 

"Fishermen are now very supportive and in the forefront of establishing the LMMAs" says Hassan. "They are now independently leading community consultation meetings with minimal guidance from NRT, Lamu County Government, and other local partners." 

"Well designed and effectively managed marine areas like Pate could help reduce local threats and achieve multiple objectives regarding sustainable fisheries management, biodiversity conservation and adaptation to climate change" says George Maina, Marine Projects Lead for TNC Kenya.

With thanks to USAID Kenya, The Nature Conservancy, FFI, DANIDA, Lamu County Government, State Department for Fisheries and Blue Economy, Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service and other partners.