Marine Conservation

Quick links in this document: Themes: Biodiversity and BeautyAn Ocean of (Plastic) Hope –Food Security, Human health and wellbeing – TeamPublications and Presentations

Transformed by Holistic Conservation

The model we are using to accomplish this transformation is to let both science and theology drive our conservation, education and advocacy efforts. This is all based in a strong connection to and cooperation with local communities.

We determine the range of locally important species, habitats and ecological threats to the focal marine environment. As a Christian organisation, we rigorously study our faith in order to determine principles which guide our lifestyles, ethics, and relative importance of particular issues.

We are committed to working towards the accomplishment of all SDGs. In order to meet Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans, faith communities need to be effectively engaged and equipped. Our projects intentionally focus on SDG 14 and highlight interactions with other SDGs where they overlap.

One way you can help our marine conservation work is through our Gifts with a Difference program.


Biodiversity and Beauty

Project: Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya

Our work has focused on documenting marine biodiversity and in collaboration with Oxford University, creating the first habitat map for the marine park. We have begun a project focused on the rockpool habitats which house endemic biodiversity rare in the Western Indian Ocean, such as the crisp pillow coral seen below.

Our biodiversity work has revealed a number of IUCN Redlisted species, particularly sharks, rays and guitarfish. This has been published in Atoll Research Bulletin. We are also studying seagrass habitats to understand their ecology, diversity and importance locally.

Project: Restoring biodiversity from Mountain to Sea, New Zealand

The Karioi project provides an educational program based around a range of habitats from Maunga ki te Moanaincluding; coastal forest, freshwater streams, marine rocky shore and inter-tidal marine ecosystems. The project is actively working together towards an integrated pest control program to re-establish Karioi as a seabird mountain. Currently we are implementing predator control to protect the remnant population of Oi that still burrow around the shorelines of Karioi.

Project: Florida, USA

Based near the Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s east coast, projects are focused especially in Cape Canaveral National Seashore and the Indian River Lagoon. We are studying the marine biodiversity, volunteering with a Horseshoe crab study in Titusville and working with local partners to help people experience better health and wellbeing through time in blue spaces.

An Ocean of (Plastic) Hope

A Rocha’s research and conservation on marine plastics has focused on helping people to understand the extent of the problem globally and providing resources to help them get involved. We have developed a beach clean up guide so you can organise your own event and The Microplastics Toolbox which has loads of resources to help you learn, act and conduct citizen-science research.

Project: Global plastic cleanup

A Rocha national organisations are participating each year in the International Coastal Cleanup.

Project: Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya

The A Rocha Kenya team lead beach cleanups every Friday and also conducted the first survey of microplastic pollution for this national park.

Photo: Eric T, A Rocha Kenya

Project: Microplastic citizen science research

Microplastics are ubitquitous on coasts globally. We have developed The Microplastics Toolbox to help national organisations to monitor microplastics. Currently A Rocha Portugal is monitoring microplastics on the Algarve coast. Nurdle hunts are being used to examine these microplastics in Portugal, Kenya, and USA.

Project: Whaingaroa citizen scientists’ beach debris monitoring

Multiple beaches in the greater Whaingaroa area are surveyed regularly to determine spatial and temporal variability in beach litter which contribute to national litter debris surveys across Aotearoa, NZ. The first method we use is The Sustainable Coastlines – Litter Intelligence: Citizen Science & Education Programme where one large transect is measured from the waterline into the backshore. Launched in May 2018, the programme is funded by the Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund and works in close collaboration with Statistics New Zealand and the Department of Conservation. We also use The Whaingaroa citizen science litter project –designed with guidance from Ella van Gool (currently completing a PhD on the impact of local waste management practices on beach litter). The main aim of this project is to practically engage the community in the marine debris issue and raise awareness of the impact of plastic / marine debris on seabirds. The methodology is different from the Sustainable Coastlines method as it uses multiple transects and collects larger and smaller items along the wrack line. Debris counts, weights, and categories are recorded based on protocols from the United Nations Environment Programme and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. Our data, together with other beach survey data, provides a better understanding of litter levels on the various beaches and can aid in evaluating and setting mitigating strategies.

Project: Reducing plastic pollution in the Alvor Estuary, Portugal

The A Rocha Portugal team are regularly cleaning the beaches and coastline of the Alvor Estuary and the surrounding area along the southern coast of Portugal. Monitoring of microplastics started in 2017 and we continue to study the relative abundance and distribution of the many types of microplastics found on these beaches.

Food Security, Human Health and Wellbeing

Project: Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya

Our field study centre in Watamu is located on the shore of a marine national park where we partner with Kenya Wildlife Service to provide information to help with the management of that marine protected area. Fishermen benefit from the the park through larger fish moving out of the park and being caught, increased reproduction, and eco-tourism job opportunities.

Project: Community mangrove restoration, Ghana

A Rocha Ghana in collaboration with the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission has undertaken several activities as part of efforts to restore the ecological integrity of the Ramsar site as well as improve the livelihood of communities utilizing the resources at the Muni-Pomadze Ramsar Site.

Project: Tana River Delta, Kenya

The Tana River Delta is one of Kenya’s largest and most important freshwater wetland systems both rich in wildlife and with a significant local community of cattle herders and others dependent on it and who have done so for centuries.  A Rocha Kenya works with other partners to implement conservation initiatives to protect the delta and provide sustainable alternatives for local communities.

Project: Pro-Conservation Livelihoods in Watamu Marine National Park

Threats to the conservation of Watamu Marine Protected Area include unsustainable fishing practices and development pressures, leading to decline of habitats and species on which the livelihoods of local people depend. In collaboration with the University of St Andrews (marine and coastal environment team), the project is using an approach called a Governance Baseline Tool to bring together local communities and organisations- helping them to agree courses of action that support both conservation and community wellbeing. It is working to identify alternative pro-conservation livelihoods which are environmentally sustainable, and it is supporting the transition towards these activities, particularly amongst marginal groups.”

Project: Ocean theology

We are developing resources to help Christians connect their faith to their experiences of the ocean. This includes reflecting on ocean threats such as overfishing, climate change, and pollution. Some of the resources available can be found at our church resources site. Simply type “marine” into the search function.

You can also purchase Dr Robert Sluka’s booklet Hope for the Ocean through Grove Books.

Climate Change

Project: Coral Reef bleaching, Watamu, Kenya

We are surveying permanent quadrats to study bleaching events in this marine national park, including community ecology and resilience of these reefs. Initial results are hopeful, suggesting the reefs are changing and might be becoming more heat tolerant.

Project: Climate Stewards

Climate Stewards believes that we are all called to be good stewards of God’s earth, and that voluntary carbon offsetting is a great way to do this. These offsetting projects do not currently deal in Blue Carbon, but the projects reduce impacts of climate change which is an significant threat to marine habitats.

A Rocha Marine Team

A Rocha Publications and Presentations

Papers and book chapters 

Ederer, B. and R.D. Sluka. 2020. Plastics in the Food Chain. Perspectives on Science and Faith 72(3): 167-175.

Friedman, W. R., Halpern, B. S., McLeod, E., Beck, M. W., Duarte, C. M., Kappel, C. V., Levine, A., Sluka, R. D., Adler, S., O’Hara, C. C., Sterling, E. J., Tapia-Lewin, S., Losada, I. J., McClanahan, T. R., Pendleton, L., Spring, M., Toomey, J. P., Weiss, K. R., Possingham, H. P., and Montambault, J. R. 2020. Research priorities for achieving healthy marine ecosystems and human communities in a changing climate. Frontiers in Marine Science, 7:5.

Sluka, R.D. 2019. Book Review – Fragile World: Ecology and the Church by William T Cavanaugh (ed.). Science and Christian Belief 31(2): 196-197.

Sluka, R.D. 2019. Book review – Blue Planet, Blue God by M. Srokosz and R. Watson. Perspectives in Science and Christian Faith 71(3): 180-181.

Hereward, Hannah F. R., Louise K. Gentle, Nicholas D. Ray and Robert D. Sluka. 2019. Habitat associations of hawkfish: Depth, distribution, and density at two sites in Kenya. Bulletin of Marine Science 95(2):265-276.

Cowburn, B., Musembi, P. M., Sindorf, V., Kohlmeier, D., Raker, C., Nussbaumer, A., Hereward, H.F.R.,  van Baelenberghe, B., Goebbles, D., Kamire, J., Horion, M., Sluka, R. D., Taylor, M.L., Rogers, A.D. 2018. The Habitats and Biodiversity of Watamu Marine National Park: Evaluating our Knowledge of one of East Africa’s oldest Marine Protected Areas. Atoll Research Bulletin no. 618. 45pp.

Hereward, Hannah F R , Nicholas D Ray, Louise K Gentle and Robert D Sluka. 2017. Ghost crab burrow density at Watamu Marine National Park: An indicator of the impact of urbanisation and associated disturbance? African Journal of Marine Science 39(1):129-133.

Sluka, R.D. and A. Nussbaumer. 2017. Le changement climatique et l’océan. Pages 87-101 in E. Hobbs, J.F. Mouhot, and C. Walley (Eds.) Evangile & changement climatique. Dossier VIVRE no. 40 En Glapin 8, Switzerland. 227pp.

Sluka, Robert D. 2016. The Hidden Things of God in the Ocean. Anglican EcoCare Journal of EcoTheology 2:41-50.

Srokosz, M and R.D. Sluka. 2016. Chapter 14: Creation Care of the other 71%. Pages 214-236 in C.Bell and R.S. White (Eds) Creation Care and the Gospel: Reconsidering the Mission of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers Marketing LLC, Massachusetts, USA. 353pp.

Sindorf, V, B. Cowburn and R.D. Sluka. 2015. Rocky intertidal fish assemblage in the Watamu Marine National Park, Western Indian Ocean. Environmental Biology of Fishes DOI 10.1007/s10641-015-0397-1

Gordon, T.A.C., Cowburn, B, and R.D. Sluka. 2015. Defended territories of an aggressive damselfish contain lower juvenile coral density than adjacent non-defended areas on Kenyan lagoon patch reefs. Coral Reefs 34:13-16. DOI 10.1007/s00338-014-1229-z

Sluka, R.D. and P. Simonin. 2014. Marine Capture Fisheries – A call to action in response to limits, unintended consequences, and ethics. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 66:203-212.

Cowburn, B., R. Sluka, J. Smith, and M.O.S. Mohamed. 2013. Tourism, Reef Condition and Visitor Satisfaction in Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya. Western Indian Ocean Journal of Marine Science 12: 57-70.

Sluka, R. D. 2012. Hope for the Ocean: Marine Biodiversity, Poverty Alleviation and Blessing the Nations. Grove Books Limited, Cambridge. 28pp.

Popular articles and videos

Protecting our Oceans. 2020. A Rocha UK Wild Christian blog.

Microplastics: On the planet, in the ocean, in sharks. 2020. Ocearch Microplastics Live! Videocast.

Connecting to God, Each Other, Nature and Ourselves through the Ocean. Sermon at College Church, Northampton, MA, USA.

Coral Bleaching: there’s some good news. 2020. The Pollinator: Creation Care Network News.

An Ocean of Plastic Hope. 2018. Godspace blog.

What does Resurrection Look Like for the Indian River Lagoon by Robert Sluka. 2018. A Rocha USA blog.

Photo Essay: “Trouble in Paradise: Plastic pollution in the Bahamas” by Grace Swing & Robert D Sluka 2018. God and Nature Magazine, American Scientific Affiliation.

Peace on earth, goodwill to manatees. 2017. A Rocha USA blog.

Organizações se unem no combate ao microplástico em ambientes marinhos [Organizations unite to combat microplastics in the ocean] 2017. Ultimato (Brasilian online magazine)

Waiting for Hurricane Irma. 2017. A Rocha International Planetwise Blog

Loving your neighbor – the case of the Nassau grouper. 2016. My Father’s World blog.

Postcard from the Mediterranean. 2015. A Rocha International Planetwise Blog

R. Sluka. 2015. Grouper: Amazing Fish. Koomba 2, Wildlife Clubs of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya. Pp 24-25.

R.D. Sluka. 2015. The Hidden Things of God in the Ocean. Day 41. A Christian Ministry in the National Parks Devotional Guide, Denver, CO, USA.

R.D. Sluka. 2015 In the Eye of the Barracuda: Beauty in the Ocean. Science and Belief blog

R.D. Sluka. 2015 Marine protected areas: biodiversity conservation and development. In: Hodson, Martin J.and Hodson, Margot R. 2015. A Christian Guide to Environmental Issues. Bible Reading Fellowship, London, UK.

R.D. Sluka.. 2014. Coral Reef Research in Kenya. A Rocha International News Issue 56, December 2014. p. 3.

R.D.Sluka. 2013. Is there hope for the ocean? God and Nature. American Scientific Affiliation.

R.D.Sluka. 2013 Joined-up thinking. A Rocha UK Spring/Summer 2013 Magazine. p. 8 Sluka, R.D. 2013 Hope for the ocean. A Rocha UK Spring/Summer 2013 Magazine. p. 9

Sea Life. Robert Sluka. 2012. Science and Belief blog

Making Sense of Science and Faith. Robert Sluka. 2012. Science and Belief blog

Hope for the Ocean. 2012. Robert Sluka. 2012. Science and Belief blog


Robert D. Sluka, Ann Paterson, Steve McMann, Brittany Ederer, Caleb Hickman, Paige Johnson, and Kyrsten McLemore. 2020. Plastic Pellet Pollution on Florida’s Space Coast – a citizen science approach. 6th International Marine Conservation Congress, 15-28 August. (Virtual)

Robert D. Sluka. 2020. Caring for the Oceans: Faith and Intrinsic Values in Conservation. University of Massachusetts Amherst, 22 February.

Robert D. Sluka. 2020. Caring for the Oceans: A Biblical Perspective. University of Massachusetts Amherst, 22 February.

Robert D Sluka. 2019. Caring for Marine Life. Faraday Institute, Blue Planet Blue God, Cambridge University, 12 Sep. (video)

Robert D Sluka. 2019. The state of the ocean and the challenge of ocean plastic. Plastic Bank Interfaith Rebellion, Season of Creation Webinar, 5 September. (video)

Seeger, Dorothea, Mouhot, Jean-Francois. 2019. The work of the Christian Association „A Rocha“ for safeguarding of Creation. Reflection week for young adults – Specific programme on environmental issues, Taizé, France, 26. August

Seeger, Dorothea, de Feijter, Reijnder. 2019. Marine Litter – what can we do. Reflection week for young adults – Specific programme on environmental issues, Taizé, France, 27. August

Robert D Sluka, Jo Calcutt and Aline Nussbaumer. 2019. Interacting with Christians on Microplastics along the Mediterranean Coasts of Monaco and France. International Congress on Conservation Biology, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 21-25 July. (video)

Robert D Sluka. 2019. Christian Marine Conservation in practice. Common Good and our Common Seas, Justitia et Pax Danmark, Denmark, 4 May. (video)

Seeger, Dorothea. 2018. Ein Meer der Hoffnung – nicht des Plastiks, Micha-Lokalgruppe Berlin, Berlin, Germany, 11. October.

Kohlmeier, Dorothea. 2017. Die verborgene Welt Gottes unter Wasser – Was uns die Meere von Gott und seiner Schöpfung erzählen. Micha-Vernetzungstreffen, Stuttgart, Germany, 28-30 April.

Kohlmeier, Dorothea, Nussbaumer, Aline. 2017. The hidden things of God in the ocean. Lausanne/WEA European Conference on Creation Care – Creation care and the Gospel, God’s Word · God’s World · God’s Work, Les Courmettes, France, 10-14 September

Seeger, Dorothea. 2017. Hand aufs Schöpferherz – Klimagerechtigkeit ein christlicher Auftrag. Live-Podcast „Hossa Talk”, Marburg, Germany, 21. October.

Jame Schaefer and Robert D Sluka. 2018. Using the SCB’s Guidelines for Interacting with Faith-based Leaders ad Communities. Society for Conservation Biology Latin American and Caribbean meeting, University of West Indies, Trinidad, 24-27 July.

Robert D Sluka. 2018. Biodiversity and Beauty. Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals, Portsmouth, UK, 6 October.

Robert D Sluka. 2018. Caring for the Oceans. Bristol Christians in Science meeting, Bristol, UK, 28 September.

Robert D Sluka. 2018. An Ocean of Plastic Hope. American Scientific Affiliation Annual Meeting, Gordon College, Boston, USA, 27-30 July.

Robert D Sluka. 2018. Hope for the Ocean: Christians Caring for the 71% of the Planet Underwater. Williams Baptist College’s latest Mondy-Carroll Lectureship, Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, USA, 13 March.

Peter Musembi, Benjamin Cowburn and Robert D Sluka. 2017.Conservation of sharks and rays through research and Education in Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve, Kenya.Southern African Shark and Ray Symposium. Hermanus, South Africa, 10-13 Sep.

Robert D Sluka. 2017. A Rocha International Statement. United Nations Ocean Conference, New York City, USA, 5-9 June. Starts at 1:00:20

Robert D Sluka. 2016. The Spiritual Pathway at the IUCN World Conservation Congress: implications for coral reef conservation. Reef Conservation in the UK, 26 November, London Zoological Society, London UK.

Robert D Sluka, Benjamin Cowburn, Timothy Gordon, Hannah F.R. Hereward, Matthias Horion, Dorothea Kohlmeier, Peter Musembi, Aline Porteous, Cassi Raker, Victoria Sindorf, Michelle L. Taylor, and Alex D Rogers. 2016. Biodiversity in Watamu Marine National Park – new study reveals important species diversity previously overlooked. IUCN World Conservation Congress, 1-10 September Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

Benjamin D Cowburn and David Obura. 2016. Investigating multiple coral reef stressors on a shoe-string. 13th International Coral Reef Symposium, 19-24 June Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

Robert D Sluka. 2016. Hope for the ocean. Christians in Science Northern Conference, 16 April Sheffield, UK.

Robert D Sluka. 2016. Faith and Marine Conservation. Cambridge Conservation Forum. 15 February Cambridge, UK.

Robert D Sluka. 2015. Hope for the Ocean. Reconciling a Wounded Planet Conference, 18 September, Coventry Cathedral, UK.

Robert D Sluka. 2015. Science, Faith, and Blessing the Nations. London School of Theology, 21 April 2015, London, UK.

Robert D Sluka. 2015. Beauty in the Ocean: Theological and Practical Implications. London School of Theology, 10 March 2015, London, UK.

Robert D Sluka. 2014, The Hidden Things of God in the Ocean. ASA/CIS/CSA Annual Conference, 25-28 July McMaster University, Hamilton Canada.

Tim Gordon and Benjamin Cowburn. 2013. Damselfish Territories and Juvenile Coral Density: A Previously Overlooked Association. Reef Conservation UK meeting at Zoological Society of London, 7 Dec 2013, London, UK.

Robert D. Sluka. 2011. Christians: opponents or partners in conserving marine biodiversity? World Conference on Marine Biodiversity, September 26-30, Aberdeen, Scotland.


Robert D Sluka, Peter Musembi and Benjamin D Cowburn. 2017. Why have Coral Reefs in Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya not recovered after the 1998 bleaching event? Marine Protected Areas: Science Policy and Management 2017, 15th-17th May, Poole, UK.

Peter Musembi, Benjamin Cowburn, Jillo Katello, Robert D. Sluka, and David Obura. 2016. Anomastraea irregularis in Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya. Reef Conservation in the UK, 26 November, London Zoological Society, London UK.

Robert D Sluka. 2016. Science and Theology: Drivers of A Rocha’s global Marine and Coastal Conservation Programme. IUCN World Conservation Congress, 1-10 September, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

Benjamin Cowburn, Robert D Sluka, Peter Musembi, Dorothea Kohlmeier. 2015. Biodiversity of Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya. Reef Conservation in the UK, 28 November 2015, London Zoological Society, London UK.

Benjamin Cowburn, Robert D Sluka, Peter Musembi, Dorothea Kohlmeier. 2015. Biodiversity of Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya. European Marine Biology Symposium, 21-25 September 2015, Helgoland, Germany.

Cassie Raker, Benjamin Cowburn, Victoria Sindorf, Peter Musembi, Benjamin Vanbaelenberghe, and Robert D Sluka. 2014. Anomastraea irregularis, a Vulnerable coral of the rocky intertidal zone of Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya. Reef Conservation UK meeting at Zoological Society of London, 6 Dec 2014, London, UK.

Cassie Raker, Benjamin Cowburn, Victoria Sindorf, Peter Musembi, Benjamin Vanbaelenberghe, and Robert D Sluka. 2014. Anomastraea irregularis, a Vulnerable coral of the rocky intertidal zone of Watamu Marine National Park, Kenya. The 43rd Annual Benthic Ecology Meeting, 19-22 March, Jacksonville, Florida, USA.

Victoria Sindorf and Benjamin Cowburn. 2014. Indian Ocean Rocky Intertidal Zone – An Important Nursery Habitat for Commercially Valuable Fish Species. 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting, 23-28 February, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

Benjamin Cowburn, Victoria Sindorf, and Paul Simonin. 2013. Do minor bleaching events matter? Ecological observations from a localised event in Kenya, 2013. Reef Conservation UK meeting at Zoological Society of London, 7 Dec 2013, London, UK.