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.

The Locally-Managed Marine Area Network held a tok story side event at the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium, held in Cairns, Australia, in July 2012. Tok story is a Pacific expression meaning to share experiences informally. Similar to other LMMA Network sharing events, the evening began with acknowledgment of local traditional resource owners and a customary Fijian kava ceremony to welcome those present and establish a setting for exchanging ideas.

Over 130 conferees from countries spanning the globe gathered at the event, seated on traditional straw mats and passing kava. They shared examples and advice on community-based management, research, livelihoods, and more. Below is a small sampling of some of the spoken lessons:

  • “Practitioners from outside the community – scientists, facilitators, or advisers – should always try to speak the local dialect and demonstrate a willingness to learn the culture to understand the issues and needs of the community.”
  • “As a scientist, I make sure that the local communities receive the results of the work I did as a guest in their communities, and I do this before reporting the results to others.”
  • “Within our indigenous communities, we are more receptive to individuals in management positions who share our background and cultural knowledge. Thus, to get such individuals into high management positions, it is critically important to have good training programs at local and regional universities and at the career-development level.”
  • “As an outsider working in and with a local community, I initially thought that fishermen there were interested in getting wealthier. But this was not their objective. They were more interested in being recognized and knowing their work was valuable.”
  • “Meeting fishers as a friend – rather than as a biologist, social scientist, or conservationist – is more likely to bring collaboration and co-operation in return, and allows for more efficient progress.”