Tabu, Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area Network (FLMMA)

Name of case study

Tabu, Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area Network (FLMMA)




 Tabu is a traditional practice experiencing resurgence since the 1990s (Barnes, 2021; FLMMA, 2011). FLMMA was established in 2004.


Urban/Landscape scale

Area / size

Varied, includes all qoliqoli (community controlled fishing areas). FLMMA covers over 10,000km2 (Robertson et al., 2020). Tabu areas are on average 9km2 (Barnes, 2021)

NbS employed

Customary resource management.

Type of NbS

Combination; Management / social / political; Ecosystem protection


Various, communities in Ucinivanua, Cuvu and Ono, alongside the University of the South Pacific and the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific International.


Various, NGO’s and Government Agencies, alongside membership fees.


Not for profit organisation. FLMMA/tabu sites cost approx. $950 NZD ($1300 FJD) per year to maintain

Design group


Management areas within the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area network. Source: Mills (2011).
Types of community-based management actions that may be implemented within a locally managed marine area. Source: Mills (2011).
Climate change benefits

Which climate change impacts are addressed?

  • Loss of food production
  • Loss of other ecosystem services
Societal / socio-cultural benefits

Which societal challenges are addressed?

  • Biodiversity health and conservation
  • Food security and quality
  • Rights / empowerment / equality / tino rangatiratanga
Ecological benefits

Which ecosystem services are generated or supported?

  • Education and knowledge
  • Food production (for humans)
  • Genetic resources (diversity)
  • Habitat provision
  • Recreation and tourism
  • Species maintenance

Summary of case study

In Fiji, people have been fishing for sustenance and managing qoliqoli (fishing grounds) for generations. The Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas (FLMMA) network was formally established in the early 2000s and represents 400 communities and over 22% of all inshore fishing areas. It uses customary management to regenerate, protect and sustain local marine resources. Qoliqoli are recognised by the Fijian government.  A common characteristic of these managed areas are tabu or no-take areas. Tabu is a traditional customary management tool, in which an area is closed for a certain amount of time.

Research is mixed on the effectiveness and socio-economic outcomes of the FLMMA network in Fiji (Alberts, 2023; Fache & Breckwoldt, 2018; Jupiter & Egli, 2011; Robinson, 2008). Robertson et al., (2020) show that communities with active tabu areas are more reliant on agriculture and consume less fish. Commercial fisher people report more clarity around roles and responsibilities and greater community cohesion. However, communities with tabu in place reported more conflict within the community who do not fish commercially for marine resources. The authors suggest this is due to the additional bureaucracy involved with managing and monitoring a protected area. Alberts (2023) discusses mixed outcomes for communities including higher levels of decision-making, increased marine knowledge and better management tools, but varied experience of improved wellbeing, economic, food security, and ecological outcomes.

Potential climate change benefits of the FLMMA are yet to be fully realised, however, there is quantifiable evidence of greater abundance of certain target species as a result of implementation (Johnson et al., 2020; Jupiter & Egli, 2011). As climate change exacerbates numerous pressures on biodiversity, measures to reduce human pressures on these systems are increasingly important.

Young fisherman in Fiji. Photograph by Tom Vierus via Ocean Image Bank
  • Alberts, E. C. (2023, June 30). Study finds locally managed marine areas in Fiji yield mixed results. Mongabay.
  • Barnes, E. (2021, May 4). Sustainability and tradition. World Wildlife Fund.
  • Fache, E., & Breckwoldt, A. (2018). Small-scale managed marine areas over time: Developments and challenges in a local Fijian reef fishery. Journal of Environmental Management, 220, 253–265.
  • FLMMA. (2011). FLMMA operations guide: The way we work together. University of the South Pacific.
  • Johnson, J. E., Allain, V., Basel, B., Bell, J. D., Chin, A., Dutra, L. X. C., Hooper, E., Loubser, D., Lough, J., Moore, B. R., & Nicol, S. (2020). Impacts of climate change on marine resources in the Pacific island region. In L. Kumar (Ed.), Climate change and impacts in the Pacific. (pp. 359–402). Springer, Cham.
  • Jupiter, S. D., & Egli, D. P. (2011). Ecosystem-based management in Fiji: successes and challenges after five years of implementation. Journal of Marine Biology, 2011, 1–14.
  • Robertson, T., Greenhalgh, S., Korovulavula, I., Tikoibua, T., Radikedike, P., & Stahlmann-Brown, P. (2020). Locally managed marine areas: Implications for socio-economic impacts in Kadavu, Fiji. Marine Policy, 117, 103950., F. B. (2008). The socio-cultural impacts of community based tabu sites on men and women: A case study of Cuvu District, Nadroga, Fiji [The University of Waikato].

Further resources

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