Power to the People
We all agree that the oceans need our protection – but what is the best way to look after them? How do we protect and preserve these resources for all stakeholders? In many coastal communities, resource protection is being managed by local communities. This is becoming especially prevalent in communities that are comprised of subsistence fishers, and in areas where national government presence and oversight is sparse. This week as part of our Seas the Day series we look at locally managed marine areas and explain why this could be the way forward when it comes to protecting marine areas in the long term
Ocean and coastal areas provide invaluable, life-sustaining, resources and ecosystem services to a growing number of people worldwide. Fish make up the primary protein source for over a billion people. However, despite their value and importance to humans we continue to actively participate in the degradation and destruction of these same resources. Perhaps then, part of the answer to this problem is giving more, not less, power to the people.
An introduction to LMMAs
Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) are increasingly being established “as a way for local coastal communities to conserve the resources they depend on for food and income” (IUCN). In more than 500 villages and across at least eight countries, communities are actively engaged in protecting and conserving thousands of hectares of marine resources (The LMMA Network).
Each community is able to designate their own areas of importance, which means they can conserve areas equally for cultural and subsistence reasons, even to the level of exclusion, that is, the prevention of access to the resource. This also means they can prevent anyresource extraction from occurring in those areas, designating them no-take zones. Similarly, they can implement periodic bans on specific species, identify general use zones, and empower the local community to become stewards of their environment.
The LMMA approach is considered to be one part of an integrated approach to managing resources. Historically, conservation and management efforts were focused on increasing productivity, or preserving biodiversity, all without consultation and inclusion of local stakeholders – those directly dependent on the resource itself. Humans are components of ecosystems too, and recognising this connectedness can lead us to better resource management approaches. The LMMA Network is advancing the practise of community based marine resource management worldwide, with a commitment to collaboration and empowerment, and in 2016 the LMMA Network received an award for fostering this global model of community led conservation.
An LMMA success story: Andavadoaka, Madagascar
Madagascar is an island nation off the southeast coast of the continent of Africa. It has one of the highest rates of endemism (species found only in that location) in the world, over 90% of the species found on Madagascar are found nowhere else on earth.
In 2017, the community of Andavadoaka celebrated over a decade of locally managed resource protection, in the form of the small scale octopus fishery that provides the local community with food and income. Octopus is one of the region’s most important marine resource, and fishers sell their catch to lucrative export markets.
But in early 2004, village fishers were beginning to report a decline in the number of octopus found on their nearby reefs. A group of community members, supported by the NGO Blue Ventures, decided to voluntarily close a portion of the area to octopus fishing. Known as the temporary closure model, this allows the resource time to recover and grow. When the fishery was reopened, the community reported a huge boost in catch size and therefore income. This has since been replicated for over a decade, and more than 300 times in Madagascar and other parts of the world.
More power to the people
The more we can encourage and empower individuals reliant on resources to become the primary stewards of those resources, the greater benefit we will see at the ecosystem level, which spreads the benefit throughout the environment. This model also includes empowering stakeholders all the way to you, the consumer, who can make better, more sustainable and equitable choices when sourcing their seafood.