Solutions in Focus:

Community-led and shared governance of marine protected and conserved areas

Coastal communities play a key role as stewards of marine resources such as fish stocks. Around the world, a vast variety of forms for community-led or shared governance of marine areas exists. The terminology is as varied as the situations, ranging from “locally-managed marine areas (LMMAs)” to “temporary fishery closures”, with not all of them being recognized as formal marine protected areas (MPAs).

The PANORAMA - Solutions for a Healthy Planet initiative presents innovative examples where community-led and shared marine area governance has been successful.

The Micronesia region comprises Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The 'Micronesia Challenge' is a commitment by the five Micronesian countries and territories to preserve the natural resources that are crucial to the survival of Pacific traditions, cultures and livelihoods.

The overall goal of the Challenge is to effectively conserve at least 30% of the near-shore marine resources and 20% of the terrestrial resources across Micronesia by 2020.

a researcher from the Palau International Coral Reef Center conducts marine monitoring

The continuous commitment of political leaders from all five Micronesian jurisdictions enables these strong networks and partnerships and actively promotes sustainable financing for conservation.

The Micronesia Challenge helped to establish or strengthen 150 conservation areas. With more than half of these targets already achieved, Micronesia is on track for its 2020 goals.

This solution has already been replicated by the Coral Triangle Initiative in 2008, the Western Indian Ocean Coastal Challenge in 2012, and the Caribbean Challenge Initiative in 2013.


The Bird’s Head Seascape programme addresses habitat destruction from over fishing and resource exploitation in West Papua,Indonesia, through a large-scale ecologically-connected and community-driven marine protected area (MPA) network to preserve biodiversity and regenerate local fisheries.

Building on scientific evidence, an alliance of conservation organisations worked to establish social and political support. This bottom up approach led to the development of the jointly declared MPA network by local communities and government.

Next, co-management institutions were established, through which local communities actively led planning and management, such as developing the zoning of the marine protected areas. To reinforce cultural identity, traditional and modern concepts of no-take zones are combined.

Finally, support was expanded through strong legislation and effective governance systems, and less dependence on the NGO coalition and donor funding, for example by engaging the private sector.

The success of the programme is evident:

The Bird’s Head Seascape includes Indonesia's first effectively managed MPA network, its first legally established co-management system, and has the highest MPA management effectiveness scores in the country. Communities are catching more fish, are revitalizing traditional practices, and finding new livelihood opportunities in the growing tourism sector.

In a very successful model that has been copied numerous times along Madagascar’s western coast, voluntary and temporary closures of octopus fishing grounds are used as a point of entry for community-based conservation. Closures typically cover 25% of a community’s overall octopus fishing area and are in place for 2-3 months at a time.

“Octopus is really the only seafood that we women can sell. Before we started doing octopus reserves, we were only catching two or three octopus in a day.

With the reserves we make a small sacrifice, but we can still glean on other reefs, and after waiting we catch more octopus– the catch is good in the days after openings. I have more money for food and for my family.”

Velvetine, 60 year old octopus gleaner

The improved fishery yields and local incomes have built community support to protect natural resources through Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) that ban destructive fishing practices and often incorporate community-enforced marine reserves.

The Parc Marin Mohéli, Comoros, was established in 2001 through a negotiated process agreed by the ten main village centers around the area.

However, during political instability, external support dried up in 2005, and pressures on coastal ecosystem resources vital to the local economy increased. The solution has revived the village dynamics around the protection of the park, and since 2014 developed income generating activities for both local communities and the park’s management.

Beach, Mohéli Marine Park

Beach, Mohéli Marine Park

This example illustrates that any protected area can revisit their core values and the rights and obligations of its stakeholders, and come up with solutions, even when conditions are unstable, confidence is eroded, and governance models are seemingly broken.

Costa Rica’s coastal population is closely tied, culturally and economically, to life on the seashore and strongly dependent on artisanal fisheries.

Women are preparing the fishing lines

Women are preparing the fishing lines

But blocked access to marine resources, degraded and polluted habitats and declining fish stocks threaten livelihoods and increase local poverty. COOPE Tárcoles, an artisanal fishermen’s cooperative, encouraged the community to use local marine resources sustainably, thus guaranteeing their economic future and cultural way of life.

The cooperative created a community-managed fishing area, engaging neighboring communities in a participatory zoning process.

A responsible Fishing Code now prohibits use of by-catch-inducing fishing nets. Partnerships have been established with local hotels to provide guided tours that promote understanding of local fishing practices and expanding ecotourism. The cooperative has supported many other conservation activities in the reserve and has united artisanal fishers for political purposes through visits to the localities in Tárcoles and participation in the National Artisanal Fishers’Forum.

Small scale fishing in Tárcoles

Small scale fishing in Tárcoles

The designation of the community-based marine area helps to conserve both the marine biodiversity and the cultural identity of the local community,through active contribution of artisanal fishermen and their stories, traditions and needs.


View a PANORAMA webinar on this topic

This session was held on 28 June 2017, with contributions by Alifereti Tawake (LMMA Network International), George Manahira and Charlie Gough (Blue Ventures) and Laure Katz (Conservation International).
View the recording

Learn more about PANORAMA!

PANORAMA – Solutions for a Healthy Planet is a partnership initiative to document and promote examples of inspiring, replicable solutions across a range of conservation and sustainable development topics, enabling cross-sectoral learning and inspiration.

Learn more about Blue Solutions!

The Blue Solutions Initiative coordinates the "marine and coastal theme" of PANORAMA.

Photo and video credits: R. Barnes / GRID-Arendal, Palau International Coral Reef Center, M. Fischborn / IUCN, L. Katz / Conservation International, G. Cripps / Blue Ventures, F. Lanshammar, O. Viquez / Coope SoliDar, Blue Solutions

PANORAMA partners:

Development partners:

PANORAMA - Solutions for a Healthy Planet is supported by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety of the Federal Republic of Germany through the International Climate Initiative, and by the Global Environment Facility.

PANORAMA - Solutions for a Healthy Planet is supported by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety of the Federal Republic of Germany through the International Climate Initiative, and by the Global Environment Facility.