Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) are areas of ocean managed by coastal communities to help protect fisheries and safeguard marine biodiversity. Found throughout the world’s tropical and subtropical seas, and encompassing diverse approaches to governance, their sizes and contexts vary widely, but all share the common theme of placing local communities at the heart of management.
From countries as far afield as Fiji and Costa Rica, LMMAs have proven highly effective in reducing local conflicts over fisheries, conserving marine biodiversity and improving catches. Blue Ventures works with coastal communities in Madagascar and the Western Indian Ocean region, supporting them to establish locally appropriate governance systems for the marine resources upon which their livelihoods depend.
For more than a decade, Blue Ventures has been supporting coastal communities in Madagascar to establish dynamic and locally appropriate fisheries management strategies. Starting with a temporary octopus reserve in the village of Andavadoaka in 2004, these efforts have spawned a grassroots marine conservation movement in Madagascar, leading to the creation of 63 LMMAs to date. This trend is set to continue over the next decade as the Government of Madagascar has committed to tripling the extent of the country’s marine protected areas, with a special emphasis on community management.
The majority of Madagascar’s LMMAs are focused on the vast coral reef and mangrove ecosystems of the country’s west coast, and are under management by communities working with local authorities and NGOs. Most are currently being incorporated into Madagascar’s Protected Areas System (SAPM) as sustainable use areas, in line with IUCN Category V and VI classifications.
Our LMMA programme focuses on three zones along Madagascar’s west coast, which together include over 70 communities, a combined coastal population of more than 50,000 people, and a total marine area of almost 6,000 square kilometres. In all of these communities, fishers have experienced severe declines in catches throughout recent decades.
Through the use of dina – customary laws that are recognised by the government – many of our partner communities have designed effective rules that can be enforced locally to ban destructive fishing practices, protect endangered species and designate priority marine areas for protection.
To ensure the long-term financial sustainability of these LMMAs, we are working to develop a variety of mechanisms including marine ecotourism programmes, eco-certifications for sustainable fisheries, and payment for ecosystem services such as mangrove REDD+.
The LMMA approach to coastal management is gaining momentum and popularity throughout Madagascar and the Western Indian Ocean region. Yet despite notable successes, many of these grassroots conservation initiatives are being developed in isolation, with limited communication or sharing of lessons learned between isolated communities.
Our experience in Madagascar has shown that peer-to-peer learning is a highly effective tool for building local capacity and confidence for fisheries management. We are therefore supporting Madagascar’s growing network of LMMA managers to share their experiences and learning with each other. The cornerstone of this network is a regular meeting of community representatives from throughout Madagascar, providing an invaluable opportunity to meet face-to-face, explore common issues and develop collaborative solutions.
LMMAs are also being developed in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and beyond. As in Madagascar, it can be difficult for local communities to communicate between sites and especially across national borders. Following a series of regional and international LMMA workshops, we are working to facilitate exchanges across the Western Indian Ocean region, with LMMA communities in Madagascar hosting visitors from Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius and the Comoros.
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Blue Ventures' Executive Director Dr Alasdair Harris is featured in the article 'Sea cucumbers saving lives: the radical charity giving Madagascan fishing communities hope' in the Daily Telegraph.
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