Sustainable basket trap fishing:Uptake of modified basket traps in Mkungunii fishing area,South Coast Kenya

Published: 17 February 2023
Last edited: 17 February 2023
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Mkunguni Beach Management Unit (BMU) is in Msambweni sub-county of Kwale county, Southern coast of Kenya. Artisanal fishing is the main economic activity in Mkunguni co-management area and illegal fishing practices are restricted by the BMU. The fishers use rudimentary fishing vessels and traditional fishing gears. The artisanal gears in use, including basket traps locally known as “malema”, catch high proportions of juveniles of both target and non-target species, affecting the sustainability of the fishery and livelihoods of the local community. Basket traps, are the most prevalent fishing gears used in the area.

To address this, the traditional 2.5-inch basket traps were modified to 3-inch mesh sizes and trialed with a few basket trap fishers in Mkunguni fishing area. Use of modified basket traps reduced the capture of juveniles of target species, increased the catch rates and consequently the income of the fishers.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Coral reef
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Ecosystem services
Fisheries and aquaculture
Food security
Indigenous people
Marine litter
Protected and conserved areas governance
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Science and research
Sustainable financing
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Waste management
Species Conservation and One Health Interventions
Species Monitoring and Research
Risk communication, community engagement and behaviour change
One Health
Biodiversity-health nexus
Food systems
Good governance of landscapes
Health effects of climate change and pollution
Loss of Biodiversity
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Unsustainable harvesting incl. Overfishing
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 2 – Zero hunger
SDG 4 – Quality education
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 12 – Responsible consumption and production
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals


Kwale, Kenya
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Like most coastal areas, Mkunguni community is heavily dependent on inshore fishing. The fishery faces degradation of marine habitats and depletion of fish stocks due to use of destructive and illegal gears, overfishing, lack of modern fishing vessels to access offshore areas, and negative impacts of climate change which reduces fish catch and consequently the income of fishers. Use of modified basket traps was identified as a solution to reduce the use of unsustainable gears that catch high proportions of juveniles of target and non-target species and increase the income for the fishers. Getting the basket traps fishers to participate in the trial was a challenge owing to the perceived possible decrease in catches by using basket traps of larger mesh size. A participatory approach was employed to bring on board fishers, relevant local leaders and lead institutions, in co-designing the basket trap intervention.


Fishermen, women, fish traders and youth.

How do the building blocks interact?

Inclusivity of all players during an intervention is a critical aspect to consider. The design of the project targeted modification of the existing gears was a way of incorporating traditional indigenous knowledge to the perpetual challenge of juvenile capture. The trial phase enhanced understanding of the impacts of the different basket trap mesh sizes on ecosystem and fish catch. Participation helped establish an element of sustainability and ownership. Benefits accrued from the interventions financially, surpassing the initial capital for both trials and uptake.


Ecological and economic benefits: Use of modified basket traps reduced the number of non-target species by 82.6%, increased the size of target fish captured by between 6.3% and 15.1%, reduced the number of juveniles individuals of dominant species by 23.7%, and increased the catch rate by 214.1%, and consequently the income to the fishers by 222.1%.

There has been a development of a savings culture among the fishermen who have formed Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) creating financial sustainability. With the VSLAs, the fishers save part of their income and can access unrestricted loans which they use to cater for other basic needs such as school fees, constructing and repairing their houses, buying household items, and opening and expanding to other businesses. They are also covered during the low Southeast Monsoon (SEM) season when the sea is rough, and fishing is difficult.



Fishing largely contributes towards the wellbeing of the local communities who depend on the resources for their livelihoods. Basket trap fishers have traditionally used small mesh-sized traps of below 2.5’ inches for fishing. However, these traps have been known to capture high proportion of juveniles contributing to overfishing. Hamza, aged 35 years, a basket trap fisherman in Mkunguni, says he has been fishing for over 20 years. Over the years, he has seen a decline in fish catch and rise of degraded habitats due to use of destructive fishing methods. He volunteered to participate in the modified basket traps trials and provided oversight during the construction of the modified basket traps. He pioneered in the formation of a VSLA group involving 70 basket traps fishermen and he is currently the chairperson to one of the groups. He says the group has helped him learn the importance of saving part of his income, and when need arises, he has easy access to unrestricted loans on his savings. By taking loans from the group, he has started other income generating activities like horticulture, which he does during the low Southeastern Monsoon (SEM) season when he is not fishing to ensure there is a constant flow of income. Other fishermen like Hamza have taken their children to better schools, expanded their businesses, completed construction and furnishing of their houses, and bought assets. This has been enabled by better income generated from fishing using modified basket traps and better savings culture by the fishermen. The fishermen being able to earn their livelihoods at the same time contributing to the conservation of the ecosystems have developed a sense of ownership and responsibility for the resources they are dependent on.

Contributed by

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Caroline Njeri Coastal Oceans Research and Development – Indian Ocean (CORDIO) East Africa

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