By Siegbert Otto
New wildlife law good for communities
Contrary to some criticism of The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013 (No. 47 of 2013), I, personally and professionally, find this statutory instrument a major milestone in the protection and management of Kenya’s invaluable and treasured wildlife – whether on land, in the sea or air.
The 2013 Act is not solely a tool of limitation, but if interpreted correctly and appropriately and applied fully within very well defined environmental constraints, it is riddled with opportunities and could be a powerful vehicle to deliver economic benefits to communities currently bypassed by mainstream tourism.
For instance, and as defined by the Constitution, the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone and the sea bed are public land, hence the existence of a Public Right to Fish. Change of use of public land may not be brought about except in terms of an Act of Parliament specifying the nature and terms of that use.
The 2013 Act does exactly that by paving the way for the establishment of more marine conservation areas and easing the process of doing so.
Provisions within the Act stipulate that the mandatory Management Plan (MP) of the protected marine area should adopt a zoning approach whilst seeking to safeguard the environmental character of the area. The dual purpose of the MP should be to realise the environmental and economic potential, by ensuring the compatibility between user activities and the sustainable use of the sea.
Management of the coast and sea within an integrated and holistic framework is key, in order to achieve a balance between use and non-monetary value of Kenya’s natural marine resources.
There are potentially huge, but as yet untapped, marine resources.
For instance, zoning of protected marine areas could (or even should) also provide for the establishment or improvement and for the maintenance and regulation of fisheries for shellfish, such as oysters, scallops and clams. Even the establishment of pearl oyster mari-culture businesses would not be inconceivable, to benefit coastal communities that are currently still subject to economic deprivation.
By way of a separate Statutory Instrument, arising from both the Constitution and the 2013 Act, exclusive rights to these zones could be transferred to either local communities, businesses or even individuals, to boost local employment and coastal micro-economies.
I am confident that this approach will result in protected marine areas that will be ”Jewels in the Crown” of Kenya’s stunning coastline, provided all necessary environmental conditions are appropriately formulated, implemented, adhered to and – if necessary – strictly enforced.
Dr Siegbert Otto is an in independent Coastal, Marine and Law Consultant based in Eldoret. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org