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The Watamu-Malindi and Watamu Banks
Important Marine Mammal Areas

Marine Mammal Diversity

Tursiops aduncus, Megaptera novaeangliae, Sousa plumbea,
Stenella longirostris, Globicephala macrorhynchus, Balaenoptera edeni, Orcinus orca, Physeter macrocephalus, Pseudorca crassidens.

Watamu – Malindi is located in the rich, shallow coastal waters off north-central Kenya and includes Watamu Banks, a large nearshore banks system that is important to oceanic species. A long-term inshore study shows that Indo Pacific bottlenose dolphins are resident in the area, an important sanctuary habitat for use by mothers and calves, as are Indian Ocean humpback dolphins, which are also sighted within the study area. The Watamu Banks are further used by Humpback whales from IWC Breeding Stock C, utilizing the whole area within the area for nursing their calves.

Qualifying Species and Criteria

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin – Tursiops aduncus
Criterion B (i)
Humpback whale – Megaptera novaeangliae
Criterion C (iii)

Qualifying Criteria

  • Criterion B : Distribution and Abundance

    Sub-criterion Bi: Small and Resident Populations

    A resident population of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins has been observed to use the area and this is evident from photo-ID data based on surveys conducted from 2010 to date (Mwang’ombe et al. 2015). Studies were conducted from 2011-2014, including 101 dedicated boat-based surveys between November and April, in 71 km2 of the Watamu area during the northeast monsoon season from 2011-2014. Search effort covered 951 km resulted in 92 sighting records of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. From 2010 to 2019, 141 individual Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins have been photo-identified in this area. From 2010 to 2019, 141 individual Indo Pacific bottlenose dolphins have been photo-identified in this area with a high re-sighting rate suggesting residency. The encounter rate for the 2011 – 14 period for this species was 0.156 sightings/km2. The distribution of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins that occur inside the Watamu-Malindi and Watamu Banks area shows a strong preference for the reefs inside the MPA, where they feed on inshore reef fish. This long-term photo-identification program has been conducted in Watamu since 2010 and this demonstrates that the population of Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins is resident in Watamu where mother-calf pairs are frequently sighted in the coastal zone. The Watamu Banks are a very well-known sport fishing area and has many record-breaking catches of game fish.

  • Criterion C : Key Life Cycle Activities

    Sub-criterion Ciii: Migration Routes

    The Watamu banks is an important area for breeding and migrating humpback whales, and the Kenya Marine Mammal Network, which logs all citizen science whale sightings, has more records from the Watamu Banks than from any other location. Although this is biased by effort, it is clear that the Watamu Banks is an important area for migrating and breeding humpback whales. Land-based observations of humpback whales have been made from a fixed land position on a headland near Watamu from an elevation of 29m with a 180-degree view of the sea. Surveys were conducted 4 days a week for a 5-hour period per day (Mwang’ombe et al. 2015). In 2014 land-based surveys recorded 54 sightings of humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), which was the highest encounter rate (ER =0.51/hour) compared to 2015 and 2016 (ER = 0.17/hour). Calves were sighted in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Watamu-Malindi and Watamu Banks Facts


- 951 km2

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