Coastal East Africa | WWF
© John Kabubu

Coastal East Africa

The coast of Mafia Island in Tanzania. Currently, over 20 million people live in and along coastal forests and landscapes in Eastern Africa.

Coastal East Africa

From coastal forests and savanna woodlands to mangroves and coral reefs, East Africa's coastline is one of the continent’s most biologically diverse areas. WWF is working to conserve these important habitats, which are home to abundant wildlife and sustain the livelihoods of millions of people. The coasts of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique offer a rich mosaic of coral reefs, mangroves, lowland forests and savanna woodlands.

 rel= © John Kabubu

Coastal East Africa including Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique shares a coastline and a myriad of essential and key natural resources, forests and a variety of ecosystems which support rich biodiversity. Unfortunately, for all its natural resources, Coastal East Africa is seen to have some of the highest rates of poverty in the world.

In 2009, the World Bank reported that the annual per capital incomes in Mozambique and Tanzania were US$ 365 and 400 respectively with Kenya at a higher US$ 770. Currently, more than 20 million people live along the Coastal East Africa shoreline and this number is expected to double before 2030. Their survival is dependant on the regions natural resources which are healthy forests, rivers, mangroves, reefs and oceans.

Over the past ten years, global demand for the region’s abundant and often undervalued natural resources led by Europe, Asia and particularly China has resulted in trade that is not only unsustainable but sometimes also illegal. Coastal East African countries are therefore losing their valuable natural assets including much needed revenue that could help tackle poverty. They are losing valuable natural assets to Europe, Asia and China, mainly due to insufficient resources to effectively control trade. Moreover, it is the poorest communities who suffer the most when these resources are degraded or destroyed.

These problems are having a regional knock-on effect. For example, timber production in Tanzania grew by an astounding 1,400 per cent between 1997 and 2005, with most of the raw hardwood being exported to China. Between 2004 and 2005, it is estimated that the country lost US $ 58 million due to illegal trade. As soon as Tanzania took action to halt the free-for-all, trade spiked in neighbouring Mozambique – underscoring why it is so important for the Coastal East African countries to work together and address such common concerns.

Forest conversion has also wreaked havoc on the region’s biodiversity. “Slash and burn” clearing has destroyed huge tracks of ancient coastal forest and increased human-wildlife conflict. This situation is being exacerbated by unregulated investment in commercial agriculture throughout the coastal region. Recognizing the importance of food security and potential for development, WWF is calling for a more integrated policy approach to ensure that land and water intensive investments are more sustainable and benefit the host country.

Off the coast, foreign fishing vessels from Asia and Europe exploit the countries’ rich fisheries at the expense of artisanal fishermen. While these foreign fleets are often granted access by the Coastal East African governments, there is little or no capacity to monitor their catch or the impacts that overfishing is having on the local coastal communities and the marine environment.

Permeating all of these challenges is the impact of global climate change, which is increasingly evident in the region. Parts of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique are already suffering from unpredictable rainfall, persistent drought and extreme weather events. Traditional livelihoods and coping strategies are being severely affected and the situation is expected to get worse as climate models predict increased temperatures and incidents of floods, drought, cyclones and coastal erosion.

The reality is that the combination of unsustainable management and uncoordinated externally driven resource extraction, exacerbated by climate change, threatens to destabilize the region’s development and natural resource base.

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Coastal conservation

WWF is working with partners at the local, national and regional level to secure a healthy environment along the coast of East Africa.
This will be achieved by:
  • helping coastal communities sustainably manage natural resources for their own benefit;
  • strengthening national legislation and management systems for sustainable fisheries and logging operations;
  • improving habitat and species conservation; and
  • developing effective marine protected areas.

Where is the East African coast?

The East African coast is highlighted in blue.

View WWF Critical Regions of the World on a larger map

WWF Goals

  • By 2020 priority landscapes and seascapes are conserved through networks of protected areas.
  • By 2020 mitigation and adaptation strategies for climate change are under implementation.
  • By 2025 at least 80% of the timber and fisheries products are sourced from sites and producers that practice legal and sustainable management.
  • By 2025 key habitats and species are conserved, continuing to provide goods and services to more than 20 million people.

Facts & Figures

  • The coast of East Africa stretches 4,600km from southern Somalia to the Natal shores of South Africa.
  • The East Africa coast supports rich wildlife populations of which 60-70% are found only in the Indo-Pacific and 15% are found nowhere else in the world. 
  • This includes:
    - 3,000 species of molluscs
    - 1,500 species of fish
    - 1,000 species of seaweed
    - 300 species of crabs
    - 200 coral species
    - 100 species of sea cucumbers
    - 50 species of starfish
    - 35 species of marine mammals.

First Indian Ocean tuna fishery certified sustainable

WWF congratulates the Maldives Pole and Line Skipjack Fishery today for becoming the first Indian Ocean tuna fishery to receive certification according to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standards. WWF has been an active supporter of the Maldives aspirations for certification, as well as an active player throughout the whole assessment and accreditation process.

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WWF calls for firm limits on tuna fisheries to address overfishing

Manila, Philippines: WWF urges the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) bringing together Pacific Island, Asian, the US, EU and other countries in their annual meeting, to adopt pragmatic rules for limiting the catch of species in the Western Central Pacific Ocean in an effort to stem overfishing occurring in the region.

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