Funded by WIOMSA through the MASMA Programme, the project is collaborating with research and academic institutions in Kenya, Tanzania and Sweden to study fish production in seagrass habitats while building capacity of young scientists
By Dr. Melckzedeck K. Osore and Dr. James M. Mwaluma
KMFRI technologist affiliated to FLAPSEA Ms Mary Mkonu (L) and an intern Mr. Robinson Okumu sampling for phytoplankton at Blue Bay in Kilifi County
The Project - Larval Fish Production and Dispersal in Critical Habitats of Coastal East Africa (FLAPSEA) commenced in March, 2019, with the inaugural meeting held in Kilifi, Kenya. FLAPSEA is implemented by researchers from KMFRI, Institute of Marine Sciences of University of Dar-es-Salaam (IMS/UDSM) and Stockholm University (SU). During the meeting, Project representatives coined the acronym FLAPSEA and mapped out strategies for achieving the overall goal effectively and timely.
Emerging results since project inauguration cover research conducted in 2019 during June, July, August, October, November and December. FLAPSEA identified sensitive seagrass habitats located at Watamu and Diani in Kenya, and Tanga in Tanzania where sampling has been underway in sites demarcated as either pristine or degraded. Useful data and information has been collected that support the need to protect seagrass habitats in the study areas. More analyses are underway to determine the productivity of healthy seagrass habitats and to estimate the socio-economic costs of their loss to fisheries production and implication to community livelihoods.
Monthly variation in plankton abundance notably the fish eggs is apparent, with little difference between the pristine and degraded sites. Phytoplankton and zooplankton encountered reflect common genera expected in coastal waters of Watamu, Diani and Tana. Peak abundance of fish eggs observed in June at pristine seagrass areas is indicative of preferred habitats for fish spawning, possibly with series of spawning events. Spawning is synchronised with the Southeast Monsoon (SEM) season and peak of primary productivity as indicated by elevated concentration of Chlorophyll a. This could be strategic to ensure that hatched larvae have a higher chance of survival through food availability. A clearer seasonal pattern is expected after sampling and analysing samples collected during the Northeast Monsoon (NEM) season – these are currently being analysed.
Fish larvae species associated with seagrass areas in Kenya and Tanzania were Leptoscrus vaigiensis and Siganus sutor - in line with what was expected in the project objectives, and therefore justification for selecting this Family for planned genetics studies. Genetics work will be spearheaded by the team from Stockholm University.
FLAPSEA has established research collaboration with two other MASMA funded projects based at KMFRI namely Seagrass Protect and MICROMARE, as well as SOLSTICE Project affiliated to WIOMSA. Collaborative activities with Seagrass Protect planned for 2020 will involve data sharing and joint field work to map seagrass habitats. FLAPSEA will share with MICROMARE Project expertise in taxonomy and modelling. SOLSTICE Project will collaborate in sharing regional oceanographic data.
Capacity building is a key activity undertaken in the initial year. Eight students, four females and four males, have registered for postgraduate degrees addressing research questions related to FLAPSEA objectives. Four PhD students and one Msc are registered at Stockholm University, two for Msc at Dar-es-Salaam University and one for Msc at Pwani University.
FLAPSEA has set up a project website hosted at KMFRI and will be mirrored at IMS, Zanzibar. The website shows the project activities, meetings and conferences attended by researchers and students. It also archives images of fieldwork and laboratory activities conducted in Kenya, Tanzania and Sweden.
FLAPSEA Project Team
Kenya (KMFRI): Dr. James Mwaluma, Dr. Melckzedeck Osore, Dr. Jacob Ochiewo, Mr. Stephen Mwangi, Ms Lilian Daudi, Mr. Charles Muthama, Mr. Noah Ngisiang’e, Mr. Oliver Agolla, Mr. Jibril Olunga, Ms. Mary Mkonu, Mr. Joseph Kilonzo, Mr. Samuel Ndirangu, Mr. Alex Fulanda, Ms Faith Gwada, Ms Alphine Mbodze, Mr. Robinson Okumu.
Tanzania (ISM/UDSM): Dr. Margareth Kyewalyanga, Dr. Mwanahija Shalli, Mr. Barnabas Tarimo, Mr. George Rushingisha, Mr. Fadhili Mustapha, Ms Hellen Kizenga, Mr. Rashid Ismail, Mr. Fadili Malesa.
Sweden (SU): Prof. Moniker Winder, Ms. Vivien Holub.
Fisherman at Mvuleni Beach, Diani, Kwale County arrives from the sea with his catch of the day