[Editor’s note: The LMMA Network supports learning, advocacy, partnership, and institutional development for community-driven marine resource management and conservation, including through the use of locally-managed marine areas or LMMAs (www.lmmanetwork.org). In this recurring feature “LMMA Lessons”, the network offers insights that its practitioners have gathered over the past decade.]

Compliance with and enforcement of management and conservation rules can be among the main challenges faced by ocean managers. Below are tips drawn from Western Pacific enforcement workshops and training events, as well as directly from LMMA practitioners’ experience, on ways to enhance compliance and enforcement:

  • Good communication and broad outreach ensures everyone knows the rules and boundaries of managed areas. A variety of common tools can be used to spread awareness, like community meetings, well-placed posters, public maps, flyers, radio announcements, school classrooms, etc. Think creatively, too: games, village plays, local rules printed on restaurant tablecloths, religious sermons, and seafood recipe contests have each been used to reach particular user groups.
  • Use recognized mechanisms or well-accepted leaders to endorse and communicate your message – like religious groups, traditional leaders, fishing cooperatives, community groups, sports teams, etc. One Fiji site curbed poaching when its community leaders visited nearby settlements of people suspected of violating local rules. The leaders brought ceremonial kava and used this traditional means of negotiation to share information on their management efforts and provide posters with their MPA maps and rules.
  • Where new rules have been established, train law enforcement officers to provide initial warnings and community education rather than citations to suspected violators, while recording violations for future reference.
  • Where enforcement action is necessary, be safe and smart. Confronting suspected poachers – carrying spears, knives, fish bombs or other weapons – can be dangerous. Rather than interacting directly, create observation networks within your community to quickly detect and report information on suspected violations to authorities.
  • Creativity can minimize costs, while providing adequate surveillance, detection, and presence. One Pohnpei LMMA community addressed poaching in a distant local MPA by using an anchored surveillance raft. The floating platform, which can accommodate more than 10 people, enables community volunteers to keep overnight observation, rotating small teams daily. The average monthly number of suspected poaching incidents has been reduced from ten to zero.
  • Form partnerships – such as the Alliance of Palau Conservation Officers, a network of district-level conservation officers – that help to provide common training, sharing of resources, development of standard protocols, coordination with national agencies and communication of needs in a united voice to national officials. Once people get to know each other and their needs on a personal level in a supportive, collaborative way, workable solutions are easier to identify.
  • Management groups have invited prosecuting attorneys and judges to MPA sites to experience the marine environment and to see for themselves the importance of effective management. The increased awareness and understanding has resulted in more interest in, and efficiency of prosecution of, MPA cases.