A Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) is an area of nearshore waters and its associated coastal and marine resources that is largely or wholly managed at a local level by the coastal communities, land-owning groups, partner organizations, and/or collaborative government representatives who reside or are based in the immediate area.

An LMMA differs from what is commonly known as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in that LMMAs are characterized by local ownership, use and/or control, and in some areas follows the traditional tenure and management practices of the region, whereas MPAs in the formal sense are typically designated via a top-down approach with little if any local input.

Communities typically set aside at least part of an LMMA as a no-take reserve (oftentimes referred to as an MPA, but with a different meaning than the formal definition above) or impose certain gear, species, or seasonal restrictions to allow habitat and resources to recover from fishing pressure, or to sustain or increase fish catch. The figure below illustrates a theoretical LMMA and the typical management “tools” used within it.

The ‘LMMA’ term 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 some other body (e.g., non-government organization or university).

An LMMA can vary widely in purpose and design; however, two aspects remain constant:

  1. a well-defined or designated area, and
  2. substantial involvement of communities and/or local governments in decision-making and implementation.

In using an LMMA approach, some coastal communities are reviving traditional practices that have been used as part of their culture for many generations. Others are using more modern ideas introduced from outside. Some use a combination of both.