In February 12th to 16th, Conservation International, Coastal Ocean Research and Development(CORDIO) working with the Kenya’s National Environmental Management Authority, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Resource Institute, and Tanzania’s Fisheries Education and Training Agency held two workshops in the context of the Indian Ocean Commission funded project “Assessing the multisectorial context for biodiversity conservation in Kenya using the Ocean Health Index organizing framework and decision-making tool.” The workshops brought together a range of stakeholders from government agencies, civil society organizations, research and academic institutions, and private sector representatives.
The objectives of the workshops included implementing design principles to identify priorities on ocean benefits, key threats and pressures and management solutions to build resilience on advancing ocean conservation objectives. The workshops also aimed at deepening the trust and communication between the ocean stakeholders, building capacity on data driven ocean conservation methodologies and establishing a plan for Ocean Health Index independent assessments in Tanzania and Kenya .
The Ocean Health Index (OHI) is an innovative framework that assesses all elements of ocean health—biological, physical, economic, and social —and provides governments, multinational organizations, and communities with the data they need to make sustainable decisions about ocean use. The OHI measures how well countries are achieving the maximum sustainable flows of key ocean services and benefits while safeguarding coastlines and marine waters and supporting the integrated management of seafood production, biodiversity protection, marine jobs and revenues, tourism and biodiversity and protection of culturally important species and places. It can be used to inform decisions ranging from a global scale and at smaller scales by regional, national, and local governing bodies. Increasingly, the OHI process is implemented by independent groups; these efforts, called OHI+ assessments, allow for the exploration of variables influencing ocean health at smaller scales where policy and management decisions are made.
Following workshop discussions, food provision emerged as one of the key benefits derived from the ocean and coastal sectors in both Kenya and Tanzania. This follows a report on the Western Indian ocean economy of which Tanzania and Kenya are part, that estimated the annual gross domestic product of the Western Indian ocean at US$20.8 billion and the total assets base at US$333.8 Billion 
Other key benefits identified included biodiversity, coastal protection and carbon storage as well as the importance of the ocean and coastal ecosystem in sustaining coastal livelihoods and economies. Tourism was also identified as a key benefit in both countries. This again follows estimates that fishing and aquaculture sectors in Kenya contribute 0.54% to the national GDP and employ 2 million people. In Tanzania, the tourism industry contributes 14% to the national GDP and generates over 1 billion jobs.
Limited knowledge management and capacity (human resource and technical capacity),inadequate governance policies and enforcement,pollution and habitat destruction among others were identified as major obstacles and threats to achieving the above priority ocean and coastal benefits.
However, the participants highlighted a growing interest among coastal communities and governments alike to establish sustainable coastal fisheries management and targets to guide sustainable exploitation of coastal resources including sustainable fisheries and tourism . The participants reiterated the need for a tool such as the OHI Index and expressed their support for the project as well as interersts in sharing of the national level datasets and gaining local technical capacity to conduct future ocean health index assessments.
At the end of the workshop, the technical and advisory groups that will guide project implementation were validated. The two groups are composed of representatives from both government and non-government institutions working in the ocean and coastal sector including the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Insitute in Kenya, Kenya National Environment and Management Authority, Kenya Ministry of Tourism, Tanzania Fisheries Research Institue and University of Dar es Salaam among others.