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New research led by JENA has shown that efforts to make Kenya’s small-scale fisheries more sustainable also contribute to food security and nutrition for coastal communities. Kenya’s small-scale fisheries, which featured prominently in our June report, make crucial contributions to coastal economies, cultures, and livelihoods. When practiced sustainably, they can provide abundant food to communities along the coast, one of Kenya’s most food-insecure regions. However, poor management and insufficient resources have led to overfishing, limiting the total amount of fish available at the same time that coastal ecosystems are suffering from the effects of climate change and pollution. One way to make these fisheries more sustainable is to target larger, sexually mature fishes, and let juvenile fish grow to reproduce at least once before they are caught. This is what managers, researchers, and communities have been doing for years by modifying traditional African fish traps with an escape gap for undersize fish.

Our new paper uses 10 years of catch data to reexamine the practice of adding escape gaps to traditional traps. A key concern was whether the escape gaps would decrease the nutritional value of the catch by leaving smaller, more nutrient-dense species in the water. We found that while some small species tended to be more nutrient dense than larger ones, this is not a universal trend. As a result, modified fish traps increased the nutritional value of fish catches, the amount of fish caught, and the sustainability of the catch. They also contributed to other food security and sustainability outcomes in a win-win for coastal communities and the marine ecosystems on which they rely. Read the whole paper here.

This publication was prepared in collaboration with researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Rhode Island.

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