Kisite-Mpunguti was established by the government in 1978. [Courtesy]

Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park and Reserve has made history as Kenya’s first Blue Park, a global recognition for achieving the highest science-based standards for marine life protection and management.

The Blue Park Award announced by Marine Conservation Institute recognizes outstanding efforts by nations, marine protected area managers, and the local community in effectively protecting marine ecosystems.

By achieving the gold level Blue Park Award, Kisite-Mpunguti, managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service, joins a growing network of 21 Blue Parks around the world designed to protect and regenerate the oceans biodiversity.

“We are delighted that Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park and Reserve has been designated a Blue Park. The award serves as motivation for us to work harder and make Kisite-Mpunguti a sustainable marine protected area that benefits both nature and humanity,” said Kisite-Mpunguti Park Warden Paul Wambi.

Kisite-Mpunguti was established by the government in 1978 and combines two contiguous areas surrounding two islands in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Kenya.

Kisite Marine National Park is 28 km2 and the second, Mpunguti Marine National Reserve is 11 km2. Kisite is a fully protected area while Mpunguti allows artisanal and recreational fishing for the local community. Both areas host snorkeling, diving, and wildlife viewing activities.

Kisite-Mpunguti protects a number of distinctive ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass meadows, and coral reefs. The diverse area shelters a rich biodiversity of marine mammals, fish, seabirds, and sea turtles.

Kisite Island is globally recognised as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International as it provides a remote breeding area. Marine mammal species found in these waters are dugongs, whale sharks, and sperm whales, all considered vulnerable or endangered species. Several sea turtle species found here are either vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered.

Dr. Lance Morgan, President of Marine Conservation Institute, said the new Blue Park designations will accelerate the protection of the most important places in our oceans. “Kisite-Mpunguti is a perfect example of an important and richly biodiverse place to protect while at the same time providing local communities with food,” he said.