Pacific communities demonstrate marine management

28 May 2014 | News story

An innovative model of coastal and marine community management is well established in the Pacific, and while this model does not fit comfortably within the IUCN definition of protected areas, it is delivering positive conservation outcomes.

The IUCN Protected Areas Categories System classifies protected areas according to their management objectives. Protected areas are classified as either: strict nature reserve or wilderness area; national park; natural monument or feature; habitat/species management area; protected landscape/seascape; or protected area with sustainable use of natural resources. What each of these categories has in common is that conservation is the primary management objective of the area. However, there are alternative management methods that can still deliver conservation outcomes.

Locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) are an example of resource management that is primarily for community subsistence purposes, but also achieves biodiversity conservation. LMMAs developed as a result of coastal communities realising that they could capitalize on opportunities for stewardship of their marine and coastal resources, to secure or even restore food supplies. LMMA communities implement sustainable fisheries management and traditional management practices to ensure the food supply from the ocean is sustained into the future. This style of management may protect and sustain marine and coastal biodiversity either intentionally or as a by-product.

A number of countries in the Pacific have embraced the LMMA concept. The LMMA Network has more than 500 participating villages in eight countries, including six in the Pacific: Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Fiji has the most project sites of any country in the overall LMMA Network, and the approach has spread as far afield as Madagascar and other western Indian Ocean countries.

An example of successful LMMAs in the Pacific is the Nguna-Pele Marine and Land Protected Area Network in Vanuatu, which received the 2008 Equator Prize to recognise its best practice in community marine conservation. This network comprises 16 indigenous communities engaged in the conservation of more than 3,000 hectares of marine and terrestrial resources. Each of the communities designated different marine conservation areas, including some off-limit tabu sites. For example, in Unakap village on Nguna Island, three areas have been designated: a permanent reserve, where no fishing is allowed; a periodic reserve, where harvesting is only allowed for special community events; and a general use zone, which can be fished subject to prohibitions on destructive fishing practices and over-harvesting. These management measures have led to higher abundance of fish species and marine invertebrates and greater fish biomass in the community reserves, compared to unmanaged areas.

Community stewardship and engagement has been the most important element in achieving these positive biodiversity conservation outcomes. LMMAs provide a model governance structure for marine resources, as it builds on community motivations and recognises the community’s dependence on marine resources for subsistence, while negating the potential adverse effects of a developing country’s often-limited ability to adequately manage and regulate these resources.

IUCN is assisting to improve protected area management, including the management of LMMAs, through the Pacific Island Roundtable for Nature Conservation, and the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) programme. IUCN and the LMMA Network are both members of the Roundtable, and this provides a format for the organisations to collaborate and coordinate conservation action. In addition, through the BIOPAMA programme, IUCN is promoting the use of best available science and knowledge to address information gaps, build capacity and strengthen policy and decision-making for protected areas in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, including the six Pacific countries in the LMMA Network.

For further information contact Etika Rupeni, Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation Coordinator, etika.rupeni@iucn.org