Date Published:

Monday, December 13, 2021 - 11:30

Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park and Reserve makes history as Kenya’s first Blue Park. Marine Conservation Institute has honored the park with a gold level Blue Park Award for achieving the highest science-based standards for marine life protection and management. Kisite-Mpunguti, managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), joins a growing network of 21 Blue Parks around the world designed to protect and regenerate our oceans biodiversity.

Park Warden of Kisite-Mpunguti, Paul Wambi, celebrated news of the award, "We are delighted that Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park and Reserve has been designated a Blue Park. As Kenya Wildlife Service, we would like to thank all of our dedicated staff, local community, and partners for making Kisite-Mpunguti a beacon of hope for marine conservation. This award only serves as motivation for us to work even harder to make Kisite-Mpunguti a sustainable MPA [marine protected area] that benefits both nature and humanity."

Established by the Kenyan government in 1978, Kisite-Mpunguti combines two contiguous areas that surround two nearby islands in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Kenya. One, the Kisite Marine National Park, is 28 km2 and the second, Mpunguti Marine National Reserve, is 11 km2. Kisite is a no-take, fully protected area while Mpunguti allows artisanal and recreational fishing for local fishermen. Both areas host snorkeling, diving, and wildlife viewing.

Dr. Lance Morgan, President of Marine Conservation Institute, said about Kisite-Mpunguti’s award, “We are excited to see new Blue Park designations accelerating the protection of the most important places in our oceans. Kisite-Mpunguti is a perfect example of an important and richly biodiverse place to protect while at the same time providing local communities with food. It is the first Blue Park award in Kenya which has a coastal area that supports so much important marine biodiversity.”

Kisite-Mpunguti protects a number of the region’s distinctive ecosystems: mangroves, seagrass meadows, and coral reefs. This diverse area shelters a rich biodiversity of marine mammals, fish, seabirds, and sea turtles. Kisite Island is recognized as an Important Bird Area by the Birdlife International because it provides an important, remote breeding area. Among the marine mammal species found in these waters are dugongs, whale sharks, and sperm whales – all considered vulnerable or endangered species. Five vulnerable, endangered, and critically endangered sea turtle species also forage and breed in the park.

Dr. Sarah Hameed, Senior Scientist and Director of the Blue Parks initiative said, “I look forward to working with the Kenya Wildlife Service and its partners to share the story of this extraordinary new Blue Park is and how well it serves its local communities and visitors. We hope that Kisite-Mpunguti becomes an MPA that others in East Africa are modeled after as it truly protects this unique place.”

A total of 21 MPAs around the world now hold the prestigious Blue Park Award for meeting the highest science-based standards for marine life protection and management. The Blue Park Award recognizes outstanding efforts by nations, MPA managers, and local community members to effectively protect marine ecosystems now and into the future. The award elevates these astonishing places and their vibrant marine life. It is also intended to motivate other nations to strive for strong and effective MPAs that conserve marine wildlife. Blue Park Awards support international progress towards the Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi Target 11, UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, and the longer-term goal of protecting 30% of the ocean by 2030.