For communities, by communities

Experience from around the world shows that managing fisheries and marine resources works best when responsibility is placed in the hands of local communities. This is particularly true in low-income countries, where there is often limited capacity and infrastructure for fisheries management and conservation.

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 management and governance, their sizes and contexts vary widely, but all share the common theme of placing local communities at the heart of management.

From as far afield as Fiji, Kenya and Costa Rica, LMMAs have proven highly effective in reducing local conflicts over fisheries, conserving marine biodiversity, and improving catches. Blue Ventures works with communities in Madagascar and the Indian Ocean region, supporting them to establish locally appropriate governance systems for the marine resources upon which traditional coastal livelihoods depend.


football pitches of ocean and marine habitat are managed by communities working with BV


of Madagascar’s seas are under local management


locally managed marine areas in Madagascar


people involved in community exchange visits to share management experiences

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LMMAs in Madagascar

In just ten years, 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 improve fisheries sustainability and climate change resilience.

Madagascar’s grassroots marine conservation movement has developed some of the world’s largest LMMAs, and the Government of Madagascar recently 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 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.

Living with the sea

Our LMMA programme focuses on three zones along Madagascar’s west coast, which together include over 75 communities, a combined coastal population of more than 40,000 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+.

Recent successes

  • Creation of the Barren Isles protected area; the largest LMMA in the Indian Ocean
  • Creation of Velondriake; the first LMMA in Madagascar to embark on registration as a nationally-recognised protected area
  • Expansion of the LMMA model to communities beyond Velondriake inspiring and guiding the creation of  large-scale LMMAs throughout Madagascar
  • Establishment of over 250 community-managed temporary fishing closures at sites around Madagascar, based on a model for community-based fisheries management first developed in Velondriake
  • Development of the largest community-based monitoring programme for artisanal sea turtle and shark fisheries in the western Indian Ocean

Our community conservation partners

Networking communities

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 an informal network known as MIHARI, 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 134 LMMA villages, organised into 65 discrete marine management associations and distributed across over 12 degrees of latitude, from both the Indian Ocean and Mozambique Channel coasts of Madagascar. Community leaders meet annually in a national LMMA forum convened and supported by NGO partners.

Blue Ventures is working 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.

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 community exchanges and partner NGO visits, hosting people from Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Mauritius, Mexico and the Comoros.

Latest news & blogs


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New research: Building community resilience to climate change

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Le Point: Sea cucumbers: a natural treasure in the West Indian Ocean

In a recent article in Le Point, journalist Sylvie Rantrua explores an unusual yet valuable commodity that is improving the lives of coastal communities in the West Indian Ocean (WIO) – the sea cucumber. Once they have been brushed and dried (to become ‘trepang’) sea cucumbers are exported and sold at a high price, particularly on...

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