Assessing the extinction risk of Kenya’s exploited coral reef fish

Levy Otwoma & Sarah Buckley

Wild caught fish are declining worldwide due to increasing levels of anthropogenic impacts. Without an understanding of historical baselines, dramatic declines and extinctions can occur undetected. In particular, the historical exploitation and susceptibility of tropical marine species to extinction is rarely investigated. Kenya represents an excellent opportunity to investigate the degree to which historically exploited coral reef fish species are vulnerable to local extinction due to the existence of contemporary and archaeological records. Our preliminary analysis revealed that 81% of species exploited historically are absent from contemporary catch records. We will investigate whether or not the absence of species in contemporary fish records implies extinction. The historical decline and disappearance of exploited fish species will be verified using local knowledge, and local extinction determined through underwater assessments. Identifying species that have already undergone local extinction will provide warning for contemporary exploited species that exhibit similar vulnerable susceptibility and productivity attributes. Knowledge gained will contribute to on-going local conservation priorities by raising awareness amongst local stakeholders. Additionally, conservation advocacy through discussions and workshops with local stakeholders will provide knowledge on species-specific management and prioritization of species for conservation. This will enhance stakeholder commitment to fisheries management while allowing for sustainable exploitation.