Watamu Marine National Park
Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve is located in Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

. Established in 1968, it was one of Kenya's first marine park
Marine park
A marine park is a park consisting of an area of sea sometimes protected for recreational use, but more often set aside to preserve a specific habitat and ensure the ecosystem is sustained for the organisms that exist there...

s. It is located about 90 miles (144.8 km) north of Mombasa
Mombasa is the second-largest city in Kenya. Lying next to the Indian Ocean, it has a major port and an international airport. The city also serves as the centre of the coastal tourism industry....

, Kenya's second largest city. Its coral gardens are merely 300 metres (984.3 ft) from the shore and are home to approximately 600 species of fish, 110 species of stony coral and countless invertebrates, crustaceans and mollusks. Water temperature varies from 20 degrees Celsius (June to November) to 30 degrees Celsius (December to May). The park was designated as a Biosphere in 1979.


Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve was established in 1968 with Malindi Marine National Park and Reserve. They were established by the Kenyan government. Watamu Marine Park is now part of a UN recognized World Biosphere Reserve.


The park's coral reefs form the physical and biological backbone of the area. With over 150 species of hard and soft corals, such as brain corals, fan corals and sponges, it provides for abundant nutrients for fish. The main park has over 500 species of fish and the reserve over 1000. There are also whale shark
Whale shark
The whale shark, Rhincodon typus, is a slow-moving filter feeding shark, the largest extant fish species. The largest confirmed individual had a length of and a weight of more than , but unconfirmed claims report considerably larger whale sharks...

s, manta ray
Manta ray
The manta ray is the largest species of the rays. The largest known specimen was more than across, with a weight of about . It ranges throughout waters of the world, typically around coral reefs...

s, octopus
The octopus is a cephalopod mollusc of the order Octopoda. Octopuses have two eyes and four pairs of arms, and like other cephalopods they are bilaterally symmetric. An octopus has a hard beak, with its mouth at the center point of the arms...

 and barracuda
The barracuda is a ray-finned fish known for its large size and fearsome appearance. Its body is long, fairly compressed, and covered with small, smooth scales. Some species could reach up to 1.8m in length and 30 cm in width...

 as some of the larger species in the park.

Watamu also has different species of turtle
Turtles are reptiles of the order Testudines , characterised by a special bony or cartilaginous shell developed from their ribs that acts as a shield...

s and a turtle watch program which has managed to secure the main park's beach as a 99% viable sea turtle nesting site for endangered sea turtles. This beach is patrolled and monitored vigorously.The turtles nesting in Watamu include the Green, Hawksbill
Hawksbill turtle
The hawksbill sea turtle is a critically endangered sea turtle belonging to the family Cheloniidae. It is the only extant species in its genus. The species has a worldwide distribution, with Atlantic and Pacific subspecies. E. imbricata imbricata is the Atlantic subspecies, while E...

 and Olive Ridley turtles. The Olive Ridley species is rare but occasionally comes to the nesting site. Leatherback turtles do not nest in Watamu or Malindi
Malindi is a town on Malindi Bay at the mouth of the Galana River, lying on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya. It is 120 kilometres northeast of Mombasa. The population of Malindi is 117,735 . It is the capital of the Malindi District.Tourism is the major industry in Malindi. The city is...

but they pass by through the nearby waters during their migration.


Bleaching of the water in Watamu Marine Park, a marine protected area (MPA), occurred between 1997 and 1998. This was the single most important impact on the sea water that caused high levels of mortality to the coral reefs in Malindi and Watamu. Usually recovery is variable and depends on the reefs but Watamu was slower than average in recovery. Surveys showed that urbanization and coastal development, especially from tourism and agricultural sectors, contributed to increased degradation of the marine environment in the area. Removal of forests and natural vegetation for agriculture, removal of mangroves for building and fuel, and fishing to meet the demands of a growing urban population, all contributed to increased threats on the marine ecosystems of the MPA. This ecosystem includes of coral reefs, mangrove forests and sea grass beds. Land-use plans had to be incorporated into the MPA management plan. The inclusion took into consideration issues of coastal destruction of habitats for marine species including marine turtles and shorebirds, as well as improved enforcement of existing land-use statutes.

In Watamu and Malindi parks, a local marine conservation organization seeks to protect marine life, especially sea turtles, by the means of a direct payment method program. The program pays local fishermen to tag and release sea turtles caught while fishing. For every turtle release, the fishermen are compensated for their time, efforts and potential damage to fishing gear, thus providing an incentive for releasing the animals instead of killing them. After the fishermen release the turtles, they notify Watamu Turtle Watch (WTW) volunteers who rush to the landing site. The volunteers then have an opportunity to measure and examine the animals as well as place ID tags on them before they are returned to freedom. This program has benefited the research of turtle nesting habits. Also, the center administering the program provides turtle rehabilitation for sick turtles, and has an adopt-a-turtle program, and studys the socio-economics of fishing communities. Fishermen are also allowed to fish in the protected reserve as long as they only take out the species of fish allowed by the park and use traditional methods of fishing.
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