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Ocean and Coastal Management Special Issue - East African Coastal Current ecosystems: at the frontier of climate change and food security

Posted: Dec 2021

A special issue of the scientific journal “Ocean and Coastal Management” (OCMA) highlights observation and modelling studies addressing research challenges of the East African Coastal Current (EACC) region in 14 open access articles, seven of which were led by researchers from Africa.

The EACC flows along the coastlines of Tanzania and Kenya encompassing a largely oligotrophic environment, which is nonetheless characterised by rich and diverse marine ecosystems and habitats. More than 16 million people currently live along the EACC coastline, a number expected to double by 2030. Some EACC coastal communities experience the highest rates of poverty in the world. These communities are highly dependent on the ocean for economic stability, food security, and social cohesion. 


Offloading the catch at Ngomeni, Kenya


Strong fluctuations in key fisheries occur in the region, due to the combined effects of climate change, natural ecosystem variability and overfishing. Understanding and managing fisheries under the growing threat of climate change impacts and food insecurity in the region requires good understanding of the marine environment, key environmental controls on local ecosystems and economic and social factors affecting the dependence of the coastal population on marine resources. However, the EACC region is one of the most poorly sampled and analysed marine domains in the world, due to both restricted regional marine research capacity and, in recent years, the challenges of marine security (piracy) impeding international research expeditions.


Deploying a glider


The OCMA special issue is an international and interdisciplinary collaboration of 79 co-authors (40 from countries listed as least developed by the OECD). The National Oceanography Centre’s (NOC) Dr Stuart Painter, lead editor for the special issue said, “The SOLSTICE-WIO project presented many opportunities for collaborative research with researchers in Tanzania and Kenya. This proved fruitful in several ways but the opportunity to work in poorly understood marine waters on inter-disciplinary problems with immediate societal implications has been hugely rewarding”

The special issue is a an output from the SOLSTICE-WIO project, a four-year collaborative project, funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and led by the NOC, with partners from the UK, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania. SOLSTICE-WIO, which commenced in October 2017, has brought together advances in marine technologies, local knowledge and research expertise to address challenges facing the Western Indian Ocean through technology transfer, collaborative environmental and socio-economic research and training.


Read the special issue


Diagram showing how marine management and governance challenges in the East African region are supported by interdisciplinary research efforts utilising advanced observing technologies

Happy Birthday to MOOC

Posted: Oct 2021

It’s one year since the launch, on 5th October 2020, of our highly successful Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Ocean Science in Action: Addressing Marine Ecosystems and Food Security in the Western Indian Ocean. The MOOC, freely available through Future Learn, has a global reach, with 3400 enrolments from 140 countries to date.
In the run up to COP26, our MOOC will be promoted by Future Learn as part of their effort to create the world’s most comprehensive climate change social learning curriculum. This exciting collection includes courses from leading industry and academic institutions all of which provide learners with the skills and knowledge required to combat climate change and achieve the four major goals of COP26 (Secure global net-zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach; Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats; Mobilise finance; and Work together to deliver).
The MOOC is an output from the SOLSTICE-WIO ( project, a four-year collaborative project funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) with partners from the UK, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania. SOLSTICE-WIO, which commenced in October 2017, has brought together advances in marine technologies, local knowledge and research expertise to address challenges facing the Western Indian Ocean through technology transfer, collaborative environmental and socio-economic research and training.
The free four-week course is designed for people working within marine related industries, such as fisheries, both in the Western Indian Ocean and those who study this ocean region. It’s also more widely relevant to those with an interest in ocean management and conservation, the technology used to study the ocean, and the impact of the accelerated climate change on the marine environment. The MOOC features over 30 videos, introducing learners to innovative marine technologies and their application in tackling the challenges of sustainably managing marine ecosystems.
Marine autonomous vehicles are increasingly reliable and simple to use for environmental observations, at a fraction of the cost of a research vessel. Earth observation satellites monitor the ocean, collecting a wide range of marine data, mostly freely available from global archives. Ocean models make it possible to explore regional ecosystem dynamics and gain insights into variability and change. The course explores how these technologies can form the basis for environmental research and monitoring that deliver decision support for marine policy development and resource management.
Using case studies from the SOLSTICE-WIO project the course illustrates how marine science is applied to the sustainable management of marine ecosystems and how this can contribute to global efforts in meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the challenges of the Ocean Decade 2030.
The MOOC is very highly rated by learners and has received some great reviews:
“A very informative and engaging course that I really enjoyed. The content was highly detailed and I enjoyed studying such topical and fascinating case studies. Thank you!"
“Informative and wonderfully interactive.”
“I really enjoyed this course. The content, although complicated was conveyed in an easy-to-understand way, and the quizzes along the way really helped with comprehension. I feel that I've expanded upon my basic knowledge of marine ecosystems and can't wait to continue my learning journey.”
As part of The SOLSTICE-WIO legacy, the MOOC will continue to be available via Future Learn.

SOLSTICE-WIO and SAPPHIRE Projects support complimentary policy-relevant research around fisheries and supporting environments to benefit WIO countries

Posted: May 2021

Sustainable Oceans, Livelihoods and food Security Through Increased Capacity in Ecosystem research in the Western Indian Ocean (SOLSTICE-WIO) is a four-year project, funded by the UK Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The project is active in three WIO countries (Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa), with the objective of undertaking novel and collaborative research to understand selected WIO fisheries and the impacts of current and future changes.

The Western Indian Ocean Large Marine Ecosystems Strategic Action Programme Policy Harmonisation and Institutional Reforms (WIO LME SAPPHIRE) Project aims to assist and support government institutions in the WIO region to implement activities needed to deliver the regionally agreed Strategic Action Programme. This Programme has been developed by the countries with the support of the UNDP, GEF financed Agulhas and Somali Current Large Marine Ecosystems (ASCLME) project, and the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Project. SAPPHIRE is being executed by the Nairobi Convention and implemented by UNDP with GEF funding. The project benefits the Governments of Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa and Tanzania. The overall objective of the SAPPHIRE Project is to achieve effective long-term ecosystem management in the Western Indian Ocean LMEs in line with the Strategic Action Programme as endorsed by the participating countries. It has five integrated components and each of them are intended to achieve complementary outcomes.


Component 1: Supporting Policy Harmonization and Management Reforms towards improved ocean governance.

Component 2: Stress Reduction through Community Engagement and Empowerment in Sustainable Resources Management.

Component 3: Stress Reduction through Private Sector/Industry Commitment to transformations in their operations and management practices.

Component 4:  Delivering best practices and lessons through innovative ocean governance demonstration.

Component 5: Capacity Development to Realize improved ocean governance in the WIO region.


Under Component 4, SAPPHIRE is supporting KMFRI in Kenya and IMS in Tanzania to undertake oceanographic research on the North Kenya Bank and the northern Pemba Channel respectively, designed to inform policy and governance of these important ecosystems.

SOLSTICE has demonstrated its approach to strengthening research capacity through three fisheries-related case studies in Kenya (North Kenya Bank), Tanzania (Pemba Channel), and South Africa.  These have been selected by partners in each of the three countries. 


Tanzania Case Study: Pemba Channel small pelagic fishery under climate threat.

The small pelagic fishery is important for local communities in Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania as a source of food security, nutrition and livelihood support. This diverse fishery includes mackerel, sardines and anchovies – found in schools over the continental shelf, in bays and deep lagoons with nutrient-rich waters. They are more abundant during the southeast monsoon, when stronger winds drive upwelling that brings nutrient-rich water to the surface.


Kenya Case Study: Emerging fishery of the North Kenya Bank, an opportunity for coastal populations.

The North Kenya Bank fishery is expected to spur economic growth for local communities. If well managed, it could help achieve national development goals, including poverty alleviation and wealth creation. Sustainability requires informed management interventions, but there is only scant information on the ecological status and drivers of the fishery.  


South Africa Case Study: Environmental drivers and socio-economic consequences of the South African Chokka squid fishery collapsing.

The collapse of the Chokka squid fishery in 2013 had a devastating effect on the Eastern Cape, one of the poorest provinces in South Africa. The reasons for the collapse are unknown, although local fishermen believe it happened as a result of environmental change. SOLSTICE-supported research is addressing key environmental and anthropogenic factors controlling the ecosystem dynamics of the Agulhas Bank. The results will help explain why the fishery collapsed, and inform the fishery and government as to whether the current recovery is stable, or whether similar collapses are likely in the future.


Scientists working in-country at institutions supported through both the SOLSTICE and SAPPHIRE Projects have recognized the valuable body of science-based research outputs that have been generated. At a country level, the science teams will be working with these research findings to inform the 2021 revisions of the national Marine Ecosystem Diagnostic Analyses (MEDAs) that will subsequently inform the revision of the regional Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA).

Both the SAPPHIRE and SOLSTICE Projects are facilitating the development of policy briefs by national teams. In addition, the uptake of Science into Policy is outlined in the SOLSTICE Science to Policy Action plan, facilitated by WIOMSA, which enables research outputs to be taken up into national, regional and transboundary policy processes in the WIO region. These complementary initiatives designed to inform the science-to-policy process and bring fisheries and environmental research activities closer together in the WIO  provide an excellent example of governments focusing support from diverse sources towards priority issues in their respective countries.                       



SOLSTICE Launches Free Online Course

Posted: Apr 2021


A new free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) starts this October: Ocean Science in Action: Addressing Marine Ecosystems and Food Security in the Western Indian Ocean will introduce learners to innovative marine technologies and their applications used to tackle the challenges of the sustainable management of marine ecosystems.

The course has been developed by the National Oceanography Centre (UK) in partnership with Western Indian Ocean institutions as an output from the SOLSTICE-WIO project. It has been designed to be accessible to anyone with an interest in ocean management and conservation, the technology used to study the ocean, and the impact of climate change on the marine environment.

It would particularly appeal to people working within marine-related industries, such as fisheries, in the Western Indian Ocean, and those who study this ocean region.

In this four-week course, featuring over 30 video lectures including footage of fieldwork, numerical ocean model animations and visualisations of the Remote Sensing data, learners will explore how new technologies can form the basis for environmental research and monitoring programs to deliver decision support for marine policy development and resource management. Using case studies based in the Western Indian Ocean, learners will see how marine science could be applied to the sustainable management of local marine ecosystems, and how this may contribute to global efforts to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The course is available via Future Learn and starts on the 5th October 2020. Registration is now open!

Although the course is free to all participants, a paid upgrade is offered by the platform to receive unlimited access to the course materials and a certificate of completion upon successful completion of the test at the end of the course.

A limited number of free upgrades are available to learners from WIO-based universities and organisations involved in conservation and management of marine resources. The first 200 learners to sign up via will receive a free course upgrade. WIO universities or large organisations who wish to promote this course to their students or members of staff can apply for a promotional material pack (brochures) and the full course content on memory sticks by emailing:


SOLSTICE South African Research Cruises 2018 & 2019

Posted: Jun 2020

The SOLSTICE South Africa Case Study aims to address the causes of the Chokka squid fishery collapse in 2013, as this fishery has an important role as a local employer and source of protein for poor coastal communities. The squid fishery is the fourth most valuable commercial fishery in South Africa, importing foreign currency (as the entire product is exported to Europe) to one of the poorest provinces in South Africa with a high level of unemployment. Local fishermen are paid individually for their catch, with the fishery employing semi-artisanal fishermen, who in turn have >30,000 dependents. Thus, the 2013 crash had a devastating effect on the Eastern Cape. The specific reasons for the fishery collapse are unknown, with the potential for recovery unclear. Such uncertainty highlights that although South Africa is a country with exemplary fishery management structures and scientific capacity compared with the wider WIO region, it still lacks the research capabilities needed to understand ecosystem shifts that directly impact food security and the livelihoods of poor coastal communities.

SOLSTICE will address key environmental and anthropogenic factors controlling the ecosystem dynamics of the Agulhas Bank by using state-of-the-art technologies, such as Remote Sensing, Biogeochemical Modelling and Marine Autonomous Systems accompanied with measurements from moorings and ship based research expeditions. The aim is to study the pelagic ecosystem (i.e. physical, chemical and biological parameters) over the Eastern and Central Agulhas Bank, which is a major spawning area for many commercial fisheries, including Chokka Squid. The results will help explain why the fishery collapsed, and inform the fishery and government as to whether the current recovery is stable, or whether similar collapses are likely in the future.


In October 2018 NMU conducted the first ship-based expedition on board the DEFF Research Vessel Ellen Khuzwayo which left Cape Town heading for the Cold Ridge on the Agulhas Bank to initiate field work in the South African Case Study (Figure 1). The Cold Ridge is a “banana” shape upwelling feature off the Knysna coast, and is thought to be a critical food-rich feature for the successful recruitment of chokka squid paralarvae.

The 4 day October 2018 cruise had three objects:

  1. to deploy 4 Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) moorings,
  2. test all the instrumentation and winches on the vessel in preparation for the main survey in 2019, and
  3. train the NMU students for data collection at sea and analysis back in the laboratories at the new NMU Ocean Science Campus.



The second NMU SOLSTICE research expedition was conducted in April 2019, also aboard the RV Ellen Khuzwayo, setting sail from Cape Town on 20th March to 4th April heading eastward towards Mossel Bay and then offshore. The SOLSTICE research team included research scientists and engineers from NMU in Port Elizabeth, and from the NOC and Heriot-Watt University in the UK. The aim of this two-week survey was to provide a snapshot view of the Cold Ridge by performing measurement across 50 stations spread across the central and eastern Agulhas Bank highlighting the subsurface physical, chemical and biological structure of the feature.  

To achieve research objectives, the SOLSTICE team conducted CTD casts, deployed Marine Snow Catchers, and retrieved 4 ADCP moorings. Emphasis was also placed on the collection of squid paralarvae in plankton samples to better map the spatial distribution of the paralarvae which is still under discussion amongst specialist in the field. These datasets will then be used to investigate biophysical interactions at the Cold Ridge and relate these to surface signatures obtained from remote sensing. This cruise also included recovery of three ocean gliders that had been deployed prior to the cruise.


Full cruise reports can be found on the BODC Resource Page:


(Below: The RV Ellen Khuzwayo courtesy of DEFF and NMU)

SOLSTICE Research Expedition to Study Environmental parameters of the North Kenya Bank

Posted: Jun 2020

The North Kenya Bank (NKB) fishery is expected to spur economic growth for local communities. If well managed, it could help achieve national development goals, including poverty alleviation and wealth creation. Sustainability requires informed management interventions, but there is only scant information on the ecological status and drivers of the fishery.

The productivity of the NKB is deemed to be driven by the Tana river sediments and nutrients input (both dissolved and particulate). Tana river provides high nutrients that flow over the NKB at the convergence of the East African Coastal and Somali currents resulting in a highly productive environment (Wakwabi et al., 2003).

Research questions

  1. What is the potential of the North Kenya Bank marine fisheries resource
  2. What are the Ecosystem processes; identify and understand key ecosystem processes related to productivity/resilience of ecosystems (biogeochemical process), to sustain fisheries productivity and ecosystem health.
  3. What are the relative impacts of the productivity drivers: upwelling and Tana river input,
  4. Is Climate variability and change affecting the productivity of the North Kenya Bank
  5. How to optimize the use of the resources, integrating ecological and socioeconomic aspects, to provide long-term benefits to society.
  6. Is the North Kenya Bank a depositional sink of the Tana River sediments


In April 2019, the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) conducted a 17-day research expedition in the NKB on board the RV Mtafiti funded from the Kenya Government through KMFRI, the SOLSTICE-WIO to complement the strategic objective of KMFRI, and the Kenya National Oceans and Fisheries Policy (2008) objectives. The aim of the expedition was to study the physical and biogeochemical drivers of the high productivity of the NKB including relative importance of the Tana River input and the shelf break and coastal upwelling. With 18 scientific researchers and engineers, KMFRI performed CTD casts, acquired ADCP cruise readings, conducted bong net tows, sampled phytoplankton and obtain sediment cores using a piston corer.


(Above right: SOLSTICE Kenya Principal Investigator, Dr Joseph Kamau from the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, preparing the CTD rosette for deployment during 2019 North Kenya Bank research Expedition onboard RV Mtafiti. Image courtesy of KMFRI)


KMFRI’s Assistant Director Oceanography and Hydrography Dr Joseph Kamau said “the RV Mtafiti expedition is key in assessing economic impacts on Kenya’s fishing communities under climate change and its consequences for its Blue Economy strategy”.


Read full article on KMFRI 2019 NKB research expedition here.


(Below: RV Mtafiti, image courtesy of KMFRI)



Ocean Robots on Mission in SOLSTICE South Africa Case Study

Posted: Jun 2020

The collapse of the Chokka squid fishery in 2013 had a devastating effect on the Eastern Cape, one of the poorest provinces in South Africa. The reasons for the collapse are unknown, although local fishermen believe it happened as a result of environmental change.

The SOLSTICE-WIO South Africa Case Study was designed to address key environmental and anthropogenic factors controlling the ecosystem dynamics of the Agulhas Bank. The results will help explain why the fishery collapsed, and inform the fishery and government as to whether the current recovery is stable, or whether similar collapses are likely in the future.         


Expert scientists and engineers from the National Oceanography Centre in the UK and Nelson Mandela University (NMU) in Port Elizabeth South Africa conducted a three-week observational survey, from 20th March to 4th April 2019, profiling across water column of the eastern Agulhas Bank using state-of-the-art marine autonomous technology as part of the SOLSTICE South Africa fieldwork campaign. It was also an opportunity for early-career scientist from NMU to train on the mechanisms and use of ocean robots as effective tools to observe, measure and monitor ocean environments.


Three ocean gliders were deployed as far west as possible to identify upwelled water that has had minimal modification during its passage over the shelf. Integrated sensors included on the ocean gliders were for measuring conductivity, temperature and depth (CTD), chlorophyll and CDOM fluorescence, optical backscatter and oxygen optodes. Additional specialist sensors were employed to collect shear and temperature microstructure for the derivation of turbulent mixing parameters, micro-fluidic auto-analysing nutrient sensors capable of measuring nitrate + nitrite concentrations and a fisheries echo sounder capable of identifying small pelagic fish.


Once deployed, the gliders travelled with the predominant westward flowing current on the shelf until they reach their westernmost limit, at a point to the west of the identified cold-ridge. The R/V Ellen Khuzwayo provided complementary data via a comprehensive survey consisting of CTD profiles and discrete water samples across the shelf. These measurements also provided suitable discrete water samples to enable calibration and validation of water properties measured with the gliders and will extend the spatial coverage of the combined dataset.


This unique, dense dataset covering 100s of km of the Agulhas Bank region will enable identification of the dominant controlling mechanisms of the Agulhas Current (including meanders and shelf water interactions, internal waves, upwelling) and local meteorological forcing affecting the oceanography of the Agulhas Bank.





SOLSTICE Marine Robotics Showcase in South Africa during IIOE-2

Posted: Jun 2020

On 11th March 2019 SOLSTICE hosted a Marine Robotics Showcase scheduled during the Indian Ocean International Expedition 2 Annual Science Conference at the Nelson Mandela University. Over 130 international delegates attend the meeting ranging from researchers, students, science and policy managers.


The aim was to showcase in water the new UK-developed Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) called Ecosubµ5 and Ecosubm5. An hour-long event was held at the indoor NMU Olympic swimming pool facility, making it very convenient for the owners to display the various features of these robots, and to field questions from the audience. The audience was also able to operate the vehicles themselves. The mini AUVs are designed and manufactured by EcoSUB Robotics UK, and hold a very special niche in the marine robotic international market as they are small, have low maintenance requirements and are very easy to use ― making them ideal for research institutions in WIO developing countries.


A SOLSTICE-led half-day workshop on developing a WIO-wide marine robotics capability was held the same day. The showcase event supported this endeavour highlighting a possible means of establishing this. The combination of the workshop and the showcase event strongly assists SOLSTICE in transferring one of the three core technologies ― ocean modelling, satellite observations and marine robotics. Already, NMU has formed an AMOS unit, which has received funding to purchase equipment and employ staff.


Building Capacity in Observational Aquatic Biogeochemical Techniques

Posted: Jun 2020

The overarching aim of SOLSTICE is to grow research capacity by up-skilling organisations and individuals at all career stages to conduct interdisciplinary ecosystem research that meets the needs of EAF (Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries), policy, industry and markets. These aims are addressed through hands-on training in workshops and in the field to use three technologies for observing marine environments - marine robotics, remote sensing, ocean modelling, as well as research methodologies for biogeochemical monitoring of marine ecosystems, to deliver scientifically excellent environmental research, set in an interdisciplinary context to support the sustainable management of living marine resources.

Ahead of the 2019 sea-going fieldwork campaigns that are due to begin in South Africa in March, Kenya in April and Tanzania in June, SOLSTICE hosted its second Capacity Development Workshop from 1st to 12th October 2018 at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), in Southampton UK. This workshop focused on practical experience and training in a range of observational biogeochemical techniques used for studying the upper ocean. It covered areas of chemical and biological oceanography relevant to SOLSTICE related fieldwork with the aim of facilitating SOLSTICE post-fieldwork sample analysis and data interpretation whilst also providing broader experience of techniques that may be of wider relevance beyond SOLSTICE.

Participants included SOLSTICE research scientists from Kenya and Tanzania, as well as researchers across the Commonwealth, who learned about procedures, best practices, data quality evaluation and data interpretation in selected areas of marine biogeochemistry. The workshop consisted of poster sessions showcasing the specific projects led by participants, lectures provided by NOC experts along with laboratory and boat-based practical training on inorganic nutrient analysis, dissolved oxygen analysis, chlorophyll-a by fluorescence, particulate analyses, flow cytometry, organic nutrient analysis, inorganic carbon and alkalinity measurements, and optical methods for examining phyto/zooplankton communities. 

By growing the research capability of individual researchers in the SOLSTICE partner organisations and strengthening their involvement in international networks will lead to an associated growth in their capacity to carry out and publish marine research - thereby increasing their scientific visibility and allowing them to attract new funding more effectively.

Knowledge Management and Sharing; The art of creating value from intangible assets.

Posted: Jun 2020

                      International participants of the SOLSTICE GIS & Remote Training Workshop in the courtyard of IMS's Buyu Campus in Zanzibar, September 2018


With content contributions from James Mbugua (CORDIO) & Val Byfield (NOC)

“In today's environment, hoarding knowledge ultimately erodes your power. If you know something very important, the way to get power is by actually sharing it.” Joseph Badaracco

Systemic knowledge management is a crucial tool and asset for creating value and securing the sustainability of a project's impact beyond its lifetime. The benefits of knowledge management are enormous, however, it's only through deliberate application of such processes that these magnificent opportunities can be discovered.

The SOLSTICE-WIO project identified the importance of knowledge management and entrenched a capacity development component in the project objectives. This component aims at promoting research skills by conducting both hands-on training, as well as developing Massive Online Online Course (MOOC) content for internet-based learning.

As, so, in September 2018, SOLSTICE organised a two-week training workshop on Geographic Information System (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS) held at the Institute of Marine Science's Buyu Campus in Zanzibar.  The course attracted a total of 31 participants from five WIO countries, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Comoros and Madagascar. CORDIO East Africa, through their GIS Expert James Mbugua, contributed actively int he course by preparing relevant course content and material. Experts from SOLSTICE partnership, CORDIO-EA, IMS and NOC delivered GIS and RS lectures and in-situ training. Consolidated outputs from this training will go a long way in ensuring project sustainability in the WIO region by providing the necessary future momentum, synergy and efficiency.

It was a perfect opportunity for establishing useful career contacts and networks that will go a long way in stimulating innovation and cultural changes in the management of natural resources.











SOLSTICE Socio-environmental research underway

Posted: Jun 2020

The SOLSTICE research team from Rhodes University (South Africa), Institute of Marine Sciences (Zanzibar) and the University of Dar es Salaam, are on the ground for two months amongst local communities on Unguja and Pemba Islands to conduct socio-environmental vulnerability analysis and collect data on climate change perceptions.

This fieldwork, conducted over July and August 2018 is Part 1 of 2 Socio-Environmental research to document the coastal socioeconomic, governance, and local knowledge system of fishing communities along the coast of Pemba and Zanzibar Channels in order to understand local resource use patterns and local responses to social, economic, political and ecological pressures.

The community-level knowledge that is being collected will then be integrated with other SOLSTICE scientific research that will be conducted over 2018 and 2019 to assess the vulnerability of local communities to climate change and establish participatory, just, and sustainable management of natural resources in the Pemba Channel coastal aquatic and marine environment.

This research takes a holistic approach to investigate communities in the Pemba Channel by studying and documenting the following dimensions:

  1. Coastal Indigenous ecological knowledge systems and avenues for integration with scientific ecological research as equivalent knowledge systems
  2. Tanzanian traditional coastal governance systems for understanding indigenous rights and claims regarding coastal space
  3. Pemba Channel coastal livelihoods under climate change threats
  4. Ecological characteristics of the marine resources harvested, to investigate the spatial and temporal dynamics, and the interplay between natural and human factors
  5. Local perceptions of coupled natural and human systems under climate change
  6. Pemba Channel coastal vulnerability and ecosystems services trade-offs in the context of environmental and climatic change


All images courtesy of Rhodes University SOLSTICE research team (all images: SOLSTICE research team from Rhodes University, Institute of Marine Sciences and University of Dar es Salaam speaking with fishers in Nungwi, north Unguja Island, Zanzibar Archipelago)

















Pemba Channel drifter experiment a success

Posted: Jul 2018

The Pemba Channel drifter experiment is now underway, as part of a larger SOLSTICE-WIO research programme.  Led by Dr Matthew Palmer and Dr. Yohana Shaghude, scientists from the Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS) in Zanzibar, Pemba Fisheries Department and the UK National Oceanography Centre (NOC) deployed 9 drifters earlier this week. You can follow them on this link:

The drifter deployment and support teams Yohana, Mukaka, Mercy, Abdulaziz (IMS), Ali (Pemba Fisheries), Matthew, Gaby and Dougal (NOC), and the Pemba fisheries patrol team, Khamis and Haji are now having a well-deserved rest.

The currents flowing through the Pemba channel are fast this time of year, and three of the drifters have already left the channel, heading northwards into Kenya. Six drifters were still in the channel at the time of writing this. They are following different pathways along the Pemba slope. Some are caught in an eddy, and the teams are hoping these will stay in the channel for a little while.

Drifter team with three glidersThe glider deployment and support team with three of their gliders before deployment. From left to right: Abdulaziz Alawy (MSc, IMS), SOLSTICE Marine Robotics Principal Scientist- Dr Matthew Palmer (NOC), Mercy Mushi (MSc, IMS), Daudi Mukaka (IMS), Ali Rashid Hamad (Pemba Fisheries Development Officer), Dr Gaby Mayorga Adame (NOC), Ali Mwinyi (IMS technician), SOLSTICE Project Coordinator- Sofia Alexiou (NOC).

Following the trajectory of the drifters allow SOLSTICE scientists to measure the speed of currents in the channel between Pemba and mainland Tanzania.  Knowing how water from the East Africa Coastal Current flows through the channel important for understanding the local ecosystem. It will also allow the scientists to plan next years fieldwork, when gliders and an autonomous underwater vehicle, known as the Gavia, will collect more detailed measurements. These field campaigns are part of a larger programme of research to better understand the small pelagic fishery in the Pemba Channel.

The fishery for small pelagic fish (anchovies, sardines, mackerels, threadfins and herrings) is an important source of food and income for coastal communities in Tanzania.  The abundance of these fish varies from year to year and may be closely linked with changes in the climate and marine environment, which can affect the food supply for both larval and adult fish. Understanding these connections is essential for the sustainable management of this important fishery, both at present and in a future influenced by a changing climate.

Drifter deployment team

SOLSTICE lays foundation for Marine Robotics in WIO region

Posted: Jun 2020

In preparation of the launch of the WIO Centre for Autonomous Marine Operations and Systems (AMOS) at Nelson Mandela University (NMU), the Dean of Engineering, Prof Ossie Franks, accompanied by two NMU engineers visited the NOC Marine Autonomy and Robotics Systems facility in May 2018 to learn of the latest development in MAS. On their return back to South Africa, NMU was awarded $800,000 USD over 3 years by the merSETA to initiate the new AMOS facility. Core funding from the South African Government to purchase a small fleet of robots is now being pursued. Full growth of WIO-AMOS will be facilitated by a 5-year appointment of the Chair in Marine Robotics. The WIO-AMOS Centre operating under the NMU Faculty of Engineering will perform the following functions:

  1. It will support WIO-wide research through the deployment and operation of off-the-shelf robotics, such as gliders
  2. The Centre will host and maintain marine robotics equipment with dedicated engineers who will also execute data collection missions.
  3. Stimulate innovation in marine robotics, ie design and build new marine robots to support WIO ocean sciences in collaboration with the UK’s National Oceanography Centre.
  4. The Centre will have a strong training component involving postgraduate students from both institutions and the wider WIO.

SOLSTICE at the Commonwealth Marine Showcase 2018

Posted: Jun 2020

As part of a series of Commonwealth Heads of Government events held across the UK during 2018, the Commonwealth Marine Showcase was held on 9th April 2018, at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK. This event was dedicated to the Blue Economies, Marine Science and Sustainability.

Attended by Commissioners and Commonwealth Heads of State this showcase was a celebration of world-class marine science conducted across the Commonwealth Member States. Furthermore, there was a focus on the early career scientists ‘Bringing up a new generation of Marine Scientists’ and ‘Women in Science’. Key UK marine institutions were in attendance, with invitations to delegates from various institutions from Commonwealth nations. There was a strong political drive to ensure that collaborative research projects between the UK and the Commonwealth countries were brought to the forefront during these events. The SOLSTICE-WIO project was flagged as one of the key projects to be strongly represented. Early-career scientists from across the SOLSTICE partnership were invited to attend from Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and the UK.  (Left: SOLSTICE early-career scientists describing their research and the SOLSTICE case studies to UK Environment Minister, Thérèse Coffey).


Read more about the Commonwealth Marine Showcase NOC event here.















Photos above: (Left) SOLSTICE Early Career Scientists from Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and UK present their research and regional case studies to Commonwealth Heads of State and High Commissioners. SOLSTICE team pictured here with UK Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey.  (Right) SOLSTICE Kenyan early-career scientists, Kennedy Osuka (CORDIO-EA), Fridah Munyi and Noah Ngisiange (KMFRI), met with Kenyan High Commission Education Attaché, Mrs Dorothy Kamwilu. (Below) SOLSTICE team group photograph with NOC Executive Director Dr Ed Hill and Mrs Kamwilu



SOLSTICE Early Career Scientists from Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa presenting their research at the Commonwealth Marine Showcase to Commonwealth Heads of State and High Commisioners - 9 April 2018, Southampton UK

Tanzania Fishery Communities - 2018 Stakeholder Event

Posted: Jun 2020

The Tanzania Fishery Communities Stakeholder 2 day Workshop was held in Stone Town, Zanzibar on the 19 – 20th of March 2018. It brought together fisheries officers, MPA managers, journalists, and SOLSTICE partners from the UK and Tanzania. Their task was to plan community engagement activities that would have to take place in preparation for the marine robotics fieldwork in the Pemba Channel, scheduled for June-July 2019. 

Local groups who may encounter gliders and other marine ‘robots’ during the Tanzania field campaign include fishers, dive operators and other tour operators and guides. Most will never have seen a glider, and may not even know the meaning of the word ‘robotics’, let alone be in a position to understand why this equipment is being used in the Pemba Channel. An information campaign to explain the purpose of the research, what gliders and other underwater autonomous vehicles (AUVs) do, and how the information they collect may ultimately benefit coastal communities in Tanzania is therefore essential. It is important that this presents the planned research in ways that are easily understood by the target audience, and includes information on what to do /not do if they should encounter a glider or AUV.



The overall aim of the workshop was to develop recommendations on how to conduct this information campaign. NOC staff presented outline plans for the campaign, and participants from Tanzania described existing community engagement initiatives with which SOLSTICE could engage in order to inform local communities about marine robotics and plans for the campaign. Group discussions focused on developing a timeline of various engagement activities and developing a ‘wish-list’ of communication resources that could be used to support them. As part of the environmental research in the SOLSTICE project, measurement parameters were planned to be conducted in the Pemba Channel in June-July 2019, using marine robots called ‘gliders’ and an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) called ‘Gavia’. These robots offer a relatively low-cost method of making extensive measurements without the need for large research ships and could be useful for monitoring Tanzania’s marine environment in the future.

The workshop was hosted jointly by regional SOLSTICE partners: the Institute of Marine Sciences and the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute, with presentations from their Principal Scientists as well as UK experts from the National Oceanography Centre and Plymouth Marine Laboratory. In total there were 30 attendees representing:


2) Regional Stakeholders, which included: - Tanga Regional Fisheries Officer - District Fisheries Officers for Tanga and Mkinga Municipalities - Wardens from both the Tanga Coelacanth Park and the Pemba Channel Marine Park - Pemba Island Fisheries Officers from Chakechake & Micheweni Districts - the Pemba Regional Fisheries Officer and Chair of Pemba Channel Conservation Area (PECCA) - Fisheries specialists from the State University of Zanzibar and University of Dar es Salaam - NGO representatives from WWF Tanzania, and Mwambao - Regional Media and Journalists from ITV Tanga and ITV Zanzibar


Posted: Nov 2017

On October 28th and 29th 2017, SOLSTICE-WIO project partners from the UK, South Africa, Keyna and Tanzania gathered in Dar es Salaam for a two-day All Regions Kick-Off meeting, to discuss and agree on collaboration to deliver projectFerry fish market, Tanzania

The first day of the kick-off was dedicated to a field trip organised by the Institute of Marine Science (IMS), one of the Tanzanian project partners.  The  field trip introduced the international project partners, and the UK researchers in particular, to the socio-economic landscape of the Tanzanian Case Study, which is dedicated to the small pelagic fisheries in the Pemba Channel between the island of Pemba and the Tanzanian mainland.  The field trip included a visit to Msasani pelagic fish community landing & processing site, the Ferry Fish Market (right), and Kunduchi fishing village.

The second day was an intense all-day meeting of presentations and discussions of the case study activities planned for Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.  Topics included the marine technologies and scientific methodologies that will be used during the environmental field work, plans for the socio-economic studies and plans for engaging with local and regional stakeholder communities, and outline plans for training and education activities.

Dr Popova, who leads the UK contribution to SOLSTICE, said:
“The SOLSTICE  kick-off meeting has thrown us straight into the depth of the challenges facing the region.  Our Western Indian Ocean partners have done a great job introducing us to the issues around sustainable management of living marine resources and the importance of improving our understanding of the marine environment in the WIO.  We are all looking forward to an exciting and challenging project!”


SOLSTICE-WIO project partners from the UK, South Africa, Keyna and Tanzania


Posted: Nov 2017

SOLSTICE started with a “Big Bang”, putting together an exhibition and oral presentations which attracted a lot of attention at the 10th Scientific Symposium of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA). 

The SOLSTICE exhibition booth became a hub for project partners networking with local and regional stakeholders, news outlets and others interested in collaborating on capacity development, training, and other project activities over the next four years.

NOC’s Dr Katya Popova gave a talk on ocean modelling. Prof Russ Wynn presented on the capabilities and benefits of Marine AutonomousSystems as a more robust and cost effective way to observe the marine environment. Regional SOLSTICE partners, IMS, TAFIRI, CORDIO-EA and WWF Tanzania, also had exhibition stands and posters presenting their research.