A Movement Emerges

In the mid-1990s, scores of community-based projects were underway throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific. While communities were increasingly being engaged, the approaches were largely top down and largely led by outside scientists with little knowledge of local communities, cultures and priorities. The end result was little benefits for the resources and the people who depended on them.

Meanwhile, a new movement was emerging. Three sites that were part of a Biodiversity Conservation Network project (supported by the Biodiversity Support Program to conduct an assessment of economic incentives for natural resource conservation) focused on building community involvement in monitoring and evaluating marine resources. These included sites in Fiji, West Papau India and the Solomons, which would later become the founding sites of the LMMA Network.


The term ‘LMMA’ was agreed upon by over 100 conservation practitioners working throughout Asia and the Pacific during meetings held in 2000 to introduce the idea of forming the network. The phrase “locally-managed” was preferred over “community-based” because participants felt it better represented the work they were doing, which usually involved co-management by the community together with traditional leaders, local or state government agencies, and/or a non-government organisation or university.

A Network is Born

In the late 1990s, as more evidence grew about both the need and effectiveness of helping communities take the lead, staff from various organisations working throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific also recognised that although there was increasing number of initiatives involving community-based marine conservation taking place – and that many of them overlapped – they were not effectively sharing resources or information, and thus not learning as much as they could from each others’ successes and shortcomings.

These were the seeds for the LMMA Network, as these practitioners began advocating bringing the growing projects together to learn collectively and improve their outcomes and conservation impact.

By August 2000, more than 100 conservation practitioners from 20 projects in 12 countries across Southeast Asia and the Pacific gathered to discuss how to work and learn together. At that August meeting, a key focus was the factors they believed would influence the success or failure of their projects, and how to measure success, so best practices could be shared and scaled-up. Out of this, the LMMA Network was born.

LMMA Today

Today, LMMA supports Networks in Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Pohnpei, Fiji and the Solomon Islands, and engages with more than 15 other countries in the Indo Pacific. Increasingly, the LMMA Network is sharing its lessons globally, with increased interest not only in improved conservation outcomes, but also with an increased focus on social justice and the rights of traditional resource owners.

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