Understanding Local Marine Management Trajectories through Social-Ecological Systems Approach

Understanding Local Marine Management Trajectories through Social-Ecological Systems Approach

A new study led by Kennedy Osuka published in Sustainability shows interdependent linkages between social and environmental conditions, and how understanding these can strengthen the design of localised management interventions. The study was conducted through Our Sea Our Life project, which is supporting the development and establishment of Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) in northern Mozambique.

The study applied the Social-Ecological System Framework (SESF) to identify key features that contribute to sustainability in four essential dimensions:

  • Governance system (i.e., institutions including rules)
  • Actors (i.e., resource users)
  • Resource units (i.e., fish and other resources) and
  • Resource system (i.e., ecosystems and ecological processes)
  • The study identified conditions for success in establishing new LMMAs in six fishing villages:

    Governance – a) the existence of management rules and good knowledge of fishing gear regulations; b) functional co-management units, the local Community Fishing Councils (CCPs) that worked coherently with local authorities.

    Actors – whether migrant fishers were present and adhered to management rules. Involvement of migrant fishers in local management and in Village Savings and Loan Associations built trust and accountability.

    Resource units – high where sustainable fishing gears were used, targeting a diverse range of fish taxa.

    Resource system – high where fishing grounds were adjacent to reefs with high fish biomass and diversity.


    Four social-ecological system conditions were also identified in the six fishing villages as illustrated in the figure and varied from:

  • Strong social–ecological system in Quiwia and Quirinde,
  • strong social system and weak ecological system in Nsangue Ponta,
  • weak social system and a strong ecological system at Quifuque, and
  • weak social–ecological system in Lalane and Malinde.
  • The uptake of community no-take zone (NTZ) and temporary closures, was catalysed by activities involving the development and support of CCPs to be functional, involvement of Provincial Directorate of Fisheries in the management of LMMAs, and exchange visits to operational community closures in Kenya and Madagascar.

    Some highlights:

  • Initial social-ecological system conditions can predict the success of local management interventions.
  • Neighbouring fishing villages of Quiwia and Quirinde, both with high initial social–ecological system conditions, had different success with a temporary closure due to high compliance of rules is operation in Quiwia.
  • While, resource users had good knowledge of fishing gear regulations, it was more important for them to understand the rules in operation (both formal and customary), and who is in charge of communicating and enforcing the rules, to enable existing institutions to become functional.
  • Understanding the Social-Ecological System helps to determine how specific management interventions (such as imposing spatial closures, gear restrictions, and reducing fishing effort) could best be targeted, and contribute to social and ecological sustainability.

    Going forward, the knowledge from this study provides a roadmap of selecting a set of interventions in light of social-ecological conditions and is applicable to community-based natural resource management projects.

    The article is open access and can be accessed through the links provided below.

    Abstract:https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/12/9/3904: HTML Version: https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/12/9/3904/htm;PDF Version: https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/12/9/3904/pdf