How and why was the LMMA Network created?

The factors that prompted the formation of the LMMA Network in 2000 included:

The request from marine conservation practitioners to seek a means to end their geographic and institutional isolation from one another;

A growing number of urgent calls made by the international community to somehow increase the total area of the world’s coastal waters under effective protection and management;

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A growing understanding that increased marine conservation efforts where much of the world’s biological wealth is situated will require an effective local management approach;

Increasing recognition by leading conservation organizations and practitioners of the need to scale-up conservation efforts beyond a single site or handful of projects; and

The demand that conservation practitioners must increasingly achieve greater results with the same or fewer human and financial resources and time.

In 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. There, project teams identified some of the factors they believed would influence the success or failure of their projects, and ways in which they could measure project outcomes. Out of this, the idea to initiate the LMMA Network was born. In October 2000, most of the original participants reassembled during the 9th International Coral Reef Symposium in Bali and formally launched the LMMA Network.

During 2001, a detailed framework outlining how Network members would collect and share information was developed, reviewed and refined by Network members and external experts. In 2002, this ‘Learning Framework’ was tested and further refined by a group of volunteer LMMA project teams from Fiji and Indonesia. During 2001 and 2002, members began documenting how their involvement in Network activities has led to measurable improvements in the effectiveness of their practices and the level of conservation impact being achieved. This culminated in the Fiji-based members of the LMMA Network being awarded the highly-coveted “Equator Initiative Prize” of the United Nations at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

In 2003, Network members began the active process of periodically sharing information gathered from participating sites with one another and collectively learning from the pooled results. LMMA Network members continue to be recognized and honored with awards from their work in marine conservation.[/expand]

What is an LMMA?

A locally-managed marine area (LMMA) is an area of nearshore waters that is actively being managed in a ‘local’ practitioner context by residing or neighboring communities and/or families, or being collaboratively managed by both resident communities and local government representatives based in the immediate vicinity of the LMMA. LMMAs are usually ‘managed’ to achieve local conservation and/or sustainable development objectives. A “community-based marine protected area” is one example of an LMMA that is commonly used in many developing countries.

LMMAs offer an alternative and complementary approach to marine protection to the model of centrally-managed marine areas, where a centralized body (such as a national governmental body) largely “commands-and-controls” the management of a marine area, sometimes from a remote location.

Membership Questions

What are the benefits of participating in the LMMA Network?

Participating project teams report that they are able to amplify their conservation success and more effectively manage their marine areas as a result of being Network members.

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Benefits experienced from membership include:

  • Training in Adaptive Management and sharing skills with other project teams and practitioners;
  • Increasing the level of community support, involvement, and learning with regard to LMMA projects;
  • Exchanging ideas and information with other members through site-to-site visits, workshops, conferences and internet-based discussions;
  • Pooling of human and financial resources between projects and partner organizations in the same country or location in order to do more, share costs, reduce competition, and build new partnerships;
  • Conducting group analyses and sharing lessons and results within and outside the Network;
  • Advancing the best practices of marine conservation and guiding others around the world;
  • Expanding the knowledge base on conservation practice and science;
  • Building lasting and rewarding personal relationships among conservation practitioners.


What membership levels exist in the Network and how are they different?

There are three levels of membership in the LMMA Network: “associate,” “provisional,” and “full.”

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1. “Associate” members are involved in ongoing Network communications and have access to all publicly-released results and products. Associate members can include project team members, donors, researchers, or other interested individuals. Associate members do not have voting rights, although they are welcome to offer their voices to Network discussions and to participate in Network activities when appropriate. Interested parties that are considering a more active role in the Network (as provisional or full members) often choose to first join as an associate member in order to observe and assess Network function and activities. Associate members are asked to respect the intellectual property of the participating LMMA Network members.

2. “Provisional” members are working toward fulfilling the obligations for “full” membership (see below). Provisional members do not have voting rights.

3. “Full” members have voting rights, and have completed the full membership obligations, which include:

  • Expressing a desire to practice Adaptive Management;
  • Obtaining commitment and support from local partners;
  • Completing an initial site description;
  • Developing a community-based management and monitoring plan;
  • Collecting an agreed-upon set of baseline data according to the LMMA Learning Framework;
  • Appointing one or more persons to represent the project to the country-wide and/or overall Network.


How long does is take for members to change their membership level?

It depends. Some LMMA project teams with long-term experience, considerable team skills, and flexible resources may move from provisional to full membership within just a year or two. Others that are just getting started and/or have minimal team skills and capacity may require a few years of capacity-building and participation in the Network at a provisional or associate member level prior to attempting to become full members.

What are the costs of participating in the LMMA Network?

While there is no direct membership fee per se, participation in the LMMA Network requires that all members:

1. Be committed to the principles of Adaptive Management

2. Believe that through their contributions to the Network, current marine conservation practices can and will be improved upon, and

3. Remain as actively engaged in Network activities and with other members as they can. This requires a commitment of time and energy from interested project teams. In some cases, it may also require additional financial and human resources, or the sharing of such resources with other Network members. In particular, full members agree to collect, communicate and analyze data needed for Network learning.

Operational Questions

Is the LMMA Network an organization?

The LMMA Network does function as an organization in that it is a collective effort working toward a specific goal and is comprised of a membership base that operates under a defined decision-making process and management structure. However, the LMMA Network is not a legal entity or formalized organization. Rather, it is an ad hoc confederation of like-minded project teams and practitioners who join under a shared purpose out of the belief that working together there is a greater chance for improvement than working alone.

How are decisions made in the LMMA Network?

There are two levels of decision-making in the Network:

1. Full Members of the Network make decisions regarding:

  • Setting broad policies for the Network and amending the Social Contract;
  • Approving new full members of the Network;
  • Confirming new members of the Network Coordination Team (new members are
    proposed by the NCT);
  • Approving the work and composition of the Network Coordination Team.

2. The Network Coordination Team (NCT) is responsible for making day-to-day decisions necessary to realize the broad policies of the Network.

What does the NCT do?

NCT members work with Network members to:

1. Conceptualize and plan the overall work that the Network will do. This includes promoting the Network, raising funds, and maintaining relations with project teams and all groups working with the Network.

2. Coordinate specific Network activities including meetings, cross-site visits, and training sessions. NCT members ensure communication among projects and act as a conduit for information within the Network. NCT members also oversee the Network’s website and other networking tools.

3. Coordinate Network-level analyses. NCT members help project teams determine what data/information they need to collect for their own decision-making purposes as well as for Network-level analyses. They also coordinate the refinement of a common learning framework to help project teams collect and analyze data in a standardized fashion (see details on the “Learning Framework” later in this document).

4. Synthesize lessons from different project sites to determine more generalizable lessons learned and to communicate results within the Network and to outside audiences. Establish and approve guidelines on authorship for Network publications and other communication pieces.

How is the LMMA Network funded?

The LMMA Network receives its main funding through grants from private foundations, which are then matched by in-kind and cost contributions from project teams and organizations involved in the Network. Country networks are also investigating bilateral agency support. The LMMA Network uses its funds to support Network activities, including meetings, cross-site visits, training and capacity building, and other services for members. The Network does not have funds to support specific project activities.

Questions Related to Data Collection and Sharing

What is the LMMA “Learning Framework”?

Members of the LMMA Network have created a document that outlines a standardized and limited number of factors and methods that relate to the measurement of biological, social, and economic conditions that can influence the amount of success an LMMA may experience.

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All provisional and full members have agreed to follow and actively use this framework in order to share information across all project sites, analyze data, and collectively learn how to better employ LMMAs for improved marine conservation. Network members refer to this document as the “Learning Framework” (LF). In using the LF, Network members are able to transcend geographic isolation, linguistic differences and cultural barriers, and to openly share information and collectively learn lessons on a broader scale and higher level of power that would otherwise not be possible. The LF is written to be as accessible and useful to community groups or local leaders implementing an LMMA project on their own as it is to partner groups such as government agencies, professional conservation organizations, and universities.


How was the Learning Framework developed?

The Learning Framework was initially developed by the 20 LMMA project teams and more than 100 marine conservation practitioners that came together in 2000 to initiate the Network. There, project representatives identified some of the conditions or factors they believed could influence the success of their projects. They also discussed ways in which they could measure project outcomes and progress. Over an intensive two-and-a-half year process, Network members collectively field-tested, refined and ensured an extensive external peer review of various drafts of the document. A finalized first draft was generated in mid-2002; in 2003, it was translated into Fijian and Indonesian.

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The Learning Framework is a “living” document in that it is regularly (annually to every two years) reviewed and revised by the Network in order to adapt and improve on the factors and methods included in it in order to meet changing needs and increase the understanding of how LMMAs are most effectively used for conservation. Because it is a “living” document, project teams are continually expanding and improving their project monitoring and evaluation skills.

As of May 2004, the LF is currently undergoing another review and revision (the latest version will be available online at Each time a revised version of the LF is generated, it will be translated into the local languages where it is being used.


Do all Network members have to use the Learning Framework?

All provisional and full members of the LMMA Network agree to actively use the Learning Framework at their project sites. This means that for every provisional and full member in the Network, data is being gathered that will go toward advancing the knowledge and understanding of how to improve marine conservation. Provisional members may start out collecting information on only a few factors from each major category in the Learning Framework; over time, they may add more factors. In order to proceed to full membership, project teams are expected to attempt to collect information on almost all of the factors listed in the Learning Framework.

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In some cases, only a few individuals of a project team carries out the actual collection of all the necessary information under the Learning Framework. In most cases, however, project teams divide up data collection and analysis responsibilities between the various team members or groups. For example, data collection and analysis duties may be split between participating community members, conservation organization staff, and local government representatives. This way, the project team is not only able to share the labor and costs of the work involved, but ensures that each member of the team plays an important role in the project’s monitoring and evaluation and contributes to learning across the wider Network.


How are data property rights of members protected?

All data, results, and lessons submitted by a participating project in using the Learning Framework remain the full property of the project team that generated them. As such, neither the Network nor any other project team or person may access or use this property without the explicit and prior consent of the project team that owns it. Intellectual property rights are protected in that the information a project team generates and shares within the Network forever remains their own. Network members have developed an official “Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Statement” that all associate, provisional and full members must agree to abide by.

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All products (findings, publications, or other outputs) generated by the LMMA Network are approved by the appropriate Network Coordination Team committee after obtaining the necessary approval from the relevant Network members prior to their development and public release. Outputs and results generated through group analysis and other collective Network efforts remain the property of both the individual projects and people that have shared data and contributed toward generating such products as well as the overall Network membership (i.e., provisional and full members). These rules guarantee that no individual project’s data or results can be used or published without the full consent, participation, review and acknowledgement of the contributing project team.


What if a project team has information that is sensitive or indicates lack of success?

As provisional or full members, participating project teams have demonstrated their leadership and willingness to openly share important – and sometimes sensitive – information regarding how successful their LMMA use is. In some cases, this open and honest sharing of evaluative data from a site may indicate that the project’s success has not yet reached the desired level, or may highlight specific and sensitive challenges that the project team is facing and attempting to overcome.

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Recognizing this, the Network offers project teams the option of sensitive data being provided anonymously – that is, such information would be shared without the project’s true identity being revealed. This way, project sites are protected from any potential repercussions that might arise from sharing sensitive data or undesirable results.

On the other hand, project teams that do share sensitive information recognize that equally important and powerful learning can come from the documentation of challenges and open sharing of mistakes as can come from reporting only successes and desirable results. In fact, participating donor and organizational members of the LMMA Network have openly recognized the importance of this and emphasize that project teams that choose to openly share their challenges as well as their successes will not only be protected from any possible negative consequences of providing a full, unbiased disclosure, but are recognized by such donors and organizations as being conservation leaders willing to admit imperfection in an attempt to adapt and improve in their work, and may be rewarded as such.


Questions on How to Get Involved

How can my project or I get involved in the LMMA Network?

The LMMA Network invites and warmly welcomes all practitioners and project teams working toward achieving marine conservation aims using a local or community-based approach. It is only through the broad participation and open, respectful sharing of information that the Network believes the world’s marine conservation needs can be met.

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Prior to initial contact with the LMMA Network, interested parties are encouraged to first learn as much as they can about the Network, its activities, and the process and requirements of membership. Such information and more can be found on this website,

You can also request a free information kit containing LMMA Network introductory materials by sending an email to (be sure to include in your request the mailing address where the information kit should be sent).

Once an interested party has familiarized themselves with the activities and requirements of LMMA Network membership, and assuming they are still interested in participating, the next step is to contact the designated Network representative of the country where the project is located. A complete list of all designated country representatives can be found on the website or requested by email. For interested project teams in countries where the Network is not yet active and does not have a designated country representative, a temporary representative will be assigned until the country nominates its own.


Are there any ‘minimum requirements’ to get involved?

Technically, there are no ‘minimum requirements’ to initially get involved in the LMMA Network as an associate (non-voting) member other than being interested in LMMA use and marine conservation.

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However, all members in the Network must:

1. Be committed to the principles of Adaptive Management

2. Believe that through their contributions to the Network, current marine conservation practices can and will be improved upon

3. Remain as actively engaged in Network activities and with other members as they can

4. Be respectful of other members’ intellectual property rights.

Provisional and full members agree to collect information at their project sites according the LMMA Network’s Learning Framework. This does require an investment of additional time, interest and energy – and perhaps money – by project teams. However, those project teams that recognize the value of participation in the LMMA Network see this additional investment as beneficial to the overall success of the project.

To achieve full membership status (with voting rights), there is a specific set of measurable criteria that participating project teams must meet and which must be reviewed and approved by the other full members. To maintain their full membership status through time, participating project teams must regularly demonstrate to their peers in the Network that they continue to meet all necessary criteria.


Is Network participation limited to English-speaking LMMA project teams?

No. However, because of the need for clear and effective communication between members of the Network, non-English speaking project teams that wish to participate in the Network must offer an English-speaking and -reading representative on behalf of the project who can interface with other members and participate in Network meetings. Indonesia and the Philippines are examples of countries that have several actively participating LMMA projects in the Network where little to no English is spoken at the site level.

A principle of practice in the LMMA Network is to translate all important and relevant Network documents and publications into the national and local languages that are most commonly used. For example, key Network documents and publications have already been translated into Fijian and Indonesian.

Is Network participation limited to LMMA projects in Asia and the Pacific?

No. The Network is designed to be open and accessible to anyone around the world who is using or interested in using LMMAs. At present, the LMMA Network consists of project teams and practitioners working in Southeast Asia, Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, and the Americas. For each new country and geographic region that is currently not represented in the Network, leadership from someone in that area will be required at the outset to offer the time and energy necessary to get Network representation and activities underway in the region.

How can I learn more?

You can access more information about the LMMA Network’s activities, results, publications, members, and more on this website. You can also contact the Network with any questions or comments via email.