Western Indian Ocean

West Indian Ocean Photo
©Tim McClanahan

The Western Indian Ocean borders Africa’s east coast, and includes the tropical waters off Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, and the islands of Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles, Mauritius, and Reunion. Madagascar’s seas provide the most important breeding spot for humpback whales in the Eastern Hemisphere, along with habitat for 13 species of sharks. Coral reefs along the coastline of Kenya, Tanzania, and northern Mozambique form one of the planet’s largest fringing reefs and support large tropical fish populations, dugongs, and sea turtles. WCS scientists believe that the region includes “super reefs” that may be able to withstand rising ocean temperatures brought on by global climate change if their fisheries resources are properly managed.


Kenya's Waters

Kenya, which straddles the equator between the Indian Ocean and Lake Victoria, may be better known for its lions and giraffes, but the country also has six reserves designed specifically to protect its important marine environments. These include mangroves, coastal wetlands, lagoons, and coral reefs.


Madagascar's Waters

Madagascar's long coastline (3,100 miles) and “upstream” location from eastern and southern Africa make its aquatic ecosystems among the region’s greatest conservation priorities. The island nation sits in the Indian Ocean, and its coastal waters support humpbacks, dugongs, sea turtles, and sharks.

From the Newsroom

Helping Corals Survive a Changing ClimateApril 22, 2013

Coral reef fisheries expert Dr. Tim McClanahan highlights the resilience of coral reefs and the conservation efforts that will help them adapt to changing conditions.

Scientists Call for Large Ocean Wilderness ParksApril 15, 2013

In a survey of the Chagos Archipelago in the central Indian Ocean, due south of the Maldives, marine scientists found a huge array and high numbers of fish. The area was declared a no-take zone just a few years ago.

Same Ocean, Different SongsFebruary 2, 2012

Researchers from WCS, Columbia University, and other institutions find an unusual divide in song themes sung by humpback whales in Madagascar and Western Australia.

Marine Mammals on the MenuJanuary 24, 2012

A newly released study finds that people are increasingly consuming marine mammals—including some very rare species, like the Fraser’s dolphin—in more than 100 countries around the world.

A Countdown to Coral CollapseSeptember 28, 2011

A new study identifies a better way to determine if coral ecosystems are in danger of collapse.


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