Tropical Marine Protected Areas

Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve

Established in 1986, the Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve were created separately for different reasons. The marine park was developed in order to prevent the stripping of coral and extraction of fish, and to support local hoteliers from losing income from potential visitor decrease due to the negative impacts on the coral reef ecosystem (Kaggikah, 2015). However, the marine reserve was developed in order to protect the coral reef, marine life that has been impacted from over-fishing, and trophy collecting (Kaggikah, 2015). Although the marine park and the reserve were established in 1986, it was not until 1994 that the area became under full protected due to night patrol that reduced the amount of poaching in 1992 (Roberts and Hawkins, 2000).


Located in off the coast of Kenya, in Eastern Africa, Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve is 487 km away from Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya (KWS, 2016). Located in the marine national reserve, Mombasa Marine National Park is 10 km2 while the National Reserve is 200 km2 (KWS and CCA, N. d.).Since Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve is located in the lower latitudes, in the equatorial region of the world, the climate is hot and humid (KWS, 2016), with surface water temperature ranging from 25˚C to 31˚C, with stable salinity and moderate nutrient level (KWS and CCA, N. d.) which helps with the flourishment of marine life in the park and reserve. See the below map from MPAtlas for further geographical information.

Scientific Basis

Due to the sensitivity of the ecosystems, and the endemic and endangered species found in the protected areas and the negative impacts of human influence, Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve became protected.

Coral Reef

The fringing reef that is found in the national park and reserve, extends the entire length of the tow areas, where three types of coral have been found: Acropora, Turbinaria, and Porites (Kaggikah, 2015).  This coral reef is critical for the economy of the fisherman and locals (KWS and CCA, N. d.), where the spillover of the reef allow fishermen to continue their occupation, and tourism brings another source of income for locals through souvenirs and ecotourism of the reef. With the level of protection and status of fish population before the development of the Mombasa Marine National Park, as well as, the recovery rate of coral bleaching after the El Niño in 1998, the park is richer in marine life than the reserve (KWS and CCA, N. d.). As for Mombasa Marine National Reserve, this area has been heavily overfished, which has allowed the population of sea urchin to increase from the lack of predators (KWS and CCA, N. d.). With this increase, it has suppressed the fish population and slowed the recovery rate of damaged coral. However, if fishing is to be reduced or eliminated, there is a possibility of sea urchin impact on the coral reef will decrease (KWS and CCA, N. d.). 

Seagrass Beds

These marine flower plants are found in the submerged lagoon of the marine national park. In this area, there are seven different types of seagrass: Thalassia hemprichii, Thalassodendron ciliatum, Halophila stipulacea, H. ovalis, Halodule uninervis, Cymodocea rotundata, and Syringodium isoetifolium (KWS and CCA, 2016). In this ecosystem, there are six different types of sea urchins that have become a major threat due to lack of predator, much like the coral reef (KWS and CCA, N. d.). Also, human influence like increase sediment input from the destruction of Mangroves, and pollution deposits has negatively impacted the seagrass beds (KWS and CCA, N. d.).


In the last 10 to 20 years, there has been an increase in tourism. With the increase of visitors, there has been a drastic amount of development along the beaches for hotels and concrete walls (KWS and CCA, N. d.). Due to this, the erosion of the beaches has increased, which has been negatively impacting the sea turtle nesting grounds within the area (KWS and CCA, N. d.). As a result of decreased nesting grounds, the population of the sea turtle have also decreased, especially Green Sea Turtles, to the point where they have become endangered (KWS and CCA, N. d.). 

Endemic and Endangered Species

In the Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve, there are a variety of endemic and endangered species. Some of these marine species are:Here is a video displaying some of the unique marine life found in the Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve:

In Kenya

Since all protected areas, both marine and terrestrial, are under the jurisdiction of the country, the country overall has objectives in the protection of its marine areas. When observing the objectives of the marine protected areas (MPA), according to the country, the marine protected areas are not only for conservation and research use, but also for tourism and the livelihood of the local communities (Tuda and Omar, 2012).

​Objectives of Conservation of the Reef System and Fisheries

In Mombasa

In Mombasa, the national park and reserve have similar objectives to the country, however, these objectives are more specific to the area.

ObjectivesAlso, Mombasa has a Beach Management Plan to enhance the productive of marine species, and to enhance tourist experience.

Management authorities

Those that are involved with the management of the Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve are:With the KWS, this service group works with many other groups to enhance public involvement and try to reduce conflicts through finding common goals, values, beliefs, and attitudes toward the marine park and reserve. Some of these groups are:

Conflicts and Current Status

In Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve, the area has been facing many conflicts between managers and local fishers, and local fishers and visitors. Two of the major conflicts are the fisheries and the enforcement of regulations (Mangi, 2007). Click here to view the Fisheries and Enforcement of Regulations. In the issue of fisheries, a study conducted by Tim McClanahan was held in order to observe and provide information about recovery rate of reef fish along the coral reef in Kenya. Results showed that some reef fish had a slower recovery rate than others; there is a strong bond between time and the amount of fish that has been recovered (McClanahan et al, 2007). 

Recent Developments

Notable recent developments in the Mombassa Marine National Park and Reserve:
Wildlife and Conservation Act 2013
Fisheries Act 2012

Education and Awareness

Recently, education and awareness has been brought to local communities through public participation with the annual Marine Environment Day and the international coastal cleanup (Mangi, 2007), where these events have been involving school students, and fishers and boat operators. As well, the NGOs like Coral Reef Conservation Project (CRCP) and Coral Reef Degradation in the Indian Ocean (CORDIO) East Africa recently been conducting annual meetings with the locals, mainly local fishers and Fisheries Officers, to discuss monitoring fish catch, coral cover, and fish and sea urchin biomass (Mango, 2007).

Click here for the management plan for the Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve and here for additional information!

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