Locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) are areas of ocean managed by coastal communities – often in collaboration with partner organisations – to help protect fisheries and safeguard marine biodiversity.
From as far afield as Fiji, Kenya and Costa Rica, and encompassing diverse approaches to management and governance, LMMAs vary widely but all share the common theme of placing local communities at the heart of management. LMMAs have proven highly effective in reducing local conflicts over fisheries, conserving marine biodiversity and improving catches.
Since 2003, Blue Ventures has supported coastal communities in Madagascar and the Indian Ocean region to establish dynamic and locally appropriate fisheries management strategies and governance systems that help rebuild fisheries and safeguard threatened marine biodiversity.
Madagascar’s grassroots marine conservation movement has developed some of the world’s largest LMMAs. Collectively this LMMA network covers over 17% of one of Africa’s longest coastlines. Inspired by this movement, the Government of Madagascar has committed to triple the extent of the country’s marine protected areas, with a special emphasis on local management.
The majority of Madagascar’s LMMAs encompass areas of 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.
In Madagascar our LMMA programme focuses on supporting communities across five zones along the country’s west coast, which together benefit a combined coastal population of more than 40,000 people. 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 developing a variety of funding mechanisms including marine ecotourism programmes, eco-certifications for sustainable fisheries, and blue carbon.
The LMMA approach to coastal management is gaining momentum and popularity throughout Madagascar and the 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 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. Since 2012, Madagascar’s LMMAs have been united within the MIHARI Network, established to provide a framework for community exchange and dialogue to share local experiences of community-based fisheries management and conservation. MIHARI’s membership comprises 196 LMMA associations managing more than 70 discrete LMMAs distributed across 12 degrees of latitude, from both the east and west coasts of Madagascar. Community leaders meet annually in a national LMMA forum convened and supported by NGO partners.
Blue Ventures continues to reinforce and develop the MIHARI Network by developing new shared training and educational tools and resources, and establishing a coordinated system for monitoring LMMA effectiveness.
Communities are developing LMMAs 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. We are working to facilitate learning exchanges and partner NGO visits, hosting communities from Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mexico and the Comoros.
This post is the first of a 3-part series on the use of customary law (sasi) by communities from Maluku archipelago in Indonesia and how these practices have helped communities to rebuild their fisheries. My first experience of Sasi September
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