BRISBANE, Australia – The LMMA Network was awarded the prestigious 2016 Distinguished Service Award for conservation achievement from the Society of Conservation Biology Oceania Conference, for its “extraordinary achievements in advancing and scaling up the practice of community-based marine resource management and conservation in Oceania.”

“This award honours all the community leaders, communities and members, local partners and country networks across the region and increasingly across the world who have demonstrated the value and necessity of empowering people to manage their resources,” he said.

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From right to left, Alifereti Tawake, LMMA Network Council Chair; Richard Kingsford, President of the Society for Conservation Biology, Oceania; and Roko Sau Josefa Cinavilakeba, the paramount chief of Totoya in Fiji and one of the Fiji LMMA Network Trustees.

In his thank you message Roko Josefa Cinavilakeba, the paramount chief of Totoya (Roko Sau) and one of the Fiji LMMA Network Trustees, said “The LMMA initiative has enhanced my role and responsibility as a leader to be good stewards of our natural resources, especially for our future generations. I am hopeful more traditional leaders can have the same opportunities I have to help their people.”

Richard Kingsford, President of the Society for Conservation Biology, Oceania, applauded the highly successful role the network has played in advancing conservation of marine ecosystems by building from a local base, working closely with fisherman and coastal communities and training community members in adaptive management practices and monitoring.

SCB noted the organization’s track record in building membership, particularly in Fiji where the LMMA network is recognised by government as a mechanism for achieving conservation targets. Kingsford said SCB was impressed with the growth of LMMA in neighbor countries as success stories spread, including Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, Palau, and the Solomon Islands as well as the growing interest in the model from other parts of the world.

The LMMA (Locally-Managed Marine Areas) Network was founded 16 years ago as coastal communities were increasingly facing challenges in meeting their food and income in the face of resource decline and few alternative livelihoods. Starting in a few villages across the Indo Pacific, the grassroots network has steadily spread the community success stories and promoted simple, locally led solutions to improving resource health across the region.

In Fiji alone, starting in the district of Verata, the success there spread to more than 460 communities that make of Fiji LMMA today, who are using a suite of management tools, including limiting destructive fishing gear, reducing land-based threats, adapting to climate smart solutions, disaster preparedness and establishing protected areas.

LMMA Network also exists today in the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, Palau, and the Solomon Islands with more than 700-community members. More island nations also considering launching similar networks.

The LMMA movement in turn has sparked interest globally, with requests for support from Southeast East Asia, Africa and Central and South America especially from Madagascar, Kenya and other countries in West Indian Ocean.