1. Introduction

A strategy may be defined as “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim”. (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/strategy)

Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) Projects are, by definition, “strategic” projects because they cover large territorial areas, involve many stakeholders at different levels and deal with the multiplicity of thematic subjects. Projects that have been executed to date have usually followed the well-established procedural steps starting with the development of a Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) and Strategic Action Programme (SAP), implementation of SAP through various forms of partnerships and specific priority projects. However, even if all the LME projects have been quite complex in nature, sometimes they have lacked a “strategic” approach that should bring convergence of projects’ objectives, activities and results and, ultimately, would deliver a strong message to those benefiting from projects’ results, together with complementary management and governance tools to achieve the improved ecosystem health of LMEs.

An integrated, strategic approach to the assessment and management of LMEs was first adopted by the GEF Operational Strategy in 1995, recognizing the need to assist states in collectively managing their transboundary water systems. LMEs represent ecosystem-based management units that are defined ecologically and not politically. The geographical approach to defining management units puts the emphasis on ecosystem functioning. It operationalises an area which is large enough to include Global Environment Facility (GEF) transboundary considerations and assemblages of marine living resources. Within these place-based LMEs, stakeholder support for integrating national and multi-country reforms and international agency programmes can be mobilized in a cost-effective response (Sherman 2005). LMEs are estimated to provide direct services close to $US 3 trillion annually, with a possible yearly non-market value of between $US 22 and 25 trillion (Duda 2016, IOC/UNESCO and UNEP 2016).

Approximately 80% of the global fish catch comes from the 64 LMEs, which are also characterised by most of the world’s pollution, overexploitation and habitat alteration (UNESCO 2008). The concept of LMEs was included as a means to foster ecosystem-based transboundary management of coastal and marine resources.

The GEF has used the Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) and Strategic Action Programme (SAP) development approach successfully over the past two decades, to identify and implement improved management and governance processes in International Waters areas.

As of 2014, 112 GEF recipient countries (and 21 non-recipient countries) have collaborated on strategic GEF projects for 22 LMEs in order to catalyse joint commitment to action (Duda 2016). The use of the 5-module ecosystem approach in the TDA/SAP process has promoted the multidisciplinary, multi-sectoral ecosystem approach, and has led to innovative advances in international oceans management (Wang 2004).

The development of the LME approach encouraged a shift from single-species management to ecosystem-based management of coastal and marine ecosystems and their linked river systems as an integrated ecosystem. The link to terrestrial systems and incorporation of land-based inputs into marine and coastal systems was also significant. The shift in emphasis was from: (i) individual species to ecosystems; (ii) small spatial scale to multiple scales; (iii) short-term perspective to long-term perspective; (iv) humans as independent of ecosystems to humans an integral part of ecosystems; (v) management divorced from research to adaptive management driven by best available science; and (vi) managing commodities to sustaining production potential for goods and services (Duda and Sherman 2002, Sherman 2005).

LMEs are impacted by the human influences of overexploitation of fisheries and other resources, coastal habitat damage, watershed runoff (including sediments and pollutants), dumping of waste and the introduction of alien and invasive species. Fisheries yields are also impacted by unsustainable practices, changes in climate and ocean currents, as well as pollution. Mitigating these stresses on ocean systems is necessary to ensure long term sustainability of LMEs and the services they yield (UNESCO 2008).

Despite the best efforts of nation states, coastal and marine systems continue to be degraded in developed and developing countries, even after 20 years of GEF investment, 30 years since UNCLOS was adopted and 40 years since Regional Seas programmes were adopted (Duda 2014). This necessitates further urgent and better coordinated action on the behalf of governments to maintain and restore the ecosystem services that LMEs provide ecologically, socially and economically. An improved use of Integrated Oceans Management tools within a more strategic LME approach must be employed to make the best use of capacities and resources.

The management processes and goals of the LME process with respect to the Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14) objectives have recently been reviewed (UNDP 2017), and while overall conclusions were that the process has evolved good practice after 20 years of trial and improvements, there are still some important areas that need to be strengthened and improved. It is well recognised that good practices from SAPs that have been implemented need to be replicated and scaled up for greater impact in the International Waters (IW) portfolio.

Evolving methods and approaches to management of international waters require a revision and refresh of the traditional LME approach. In addition to the LME projects, several separate Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) and Marine Protected Areas (MPA) projects have been requested of the GEF by countries and approved for implementation (Duda 2016).

Examples of MPA projects that have been approved include:

CBPF: Demonstration of Estuarine Biodiversity Conservation, Restoration, and Protected Area Networking (China 2010-2017)

Long-term Financial Mechanism to Enhance Mediterranean MPA Management Effectiveness (Mediterranean 2018 - in progress)

Hon Mun Marine Protected Area Pilot Project (Vietnam 2000-2005)

Strengthening Fiji’s Network of Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) to Support Globally Significant Marine Biodiversity (2018 - concept approved)

Mitigating Key Sector Pressures on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity and Further Strengthening the National System of Marine Protected Areas in Djibouti (2016 - concept approved)

Managing the Human-Biodiversity Interface in the Southern Marine Protected Areas of Haiti - MHBI (2017 - project approved)

Caribbean Archipelago Biosphere Reserve: Regional Marine Protected Area System (Caribbean 2000-2005)

Examples of ICM and/or Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) projects that have been approved include:

MED: Integration of Climatic Variability and Change into National Strategies to Implement the ICZM Protocol in the Mediterranean (Mediterranean 2012-2015)

MED: Integrated Coastal Zone Management-Mediterranean Coast (Mediterranean 2012-2017)

Integrated Coastal Management Project (Georgia 1998-2006)

Strategic Partnership for the Mediterranean Large Marine Ecosystem-Regional Component: Implementation of Agreed Actions for the Protection of the Environmental Resources of the Mediterranean Sea and Its Coastal Areas (Mediterranean 2008-2015)

(Mediterranean 2008-2015)

The need for the revision of the LME approach has become evident, both in the need for the strengthening of the 5-module ecosystem approach, but also to strengthen the overall TDA/SAP/National Action Plan (NAP) process and incorporate complementary ecosystem management instruments that will assist to strengthen the overall assessments and management of LMEs. Approaches such as Ecosystem Based Management, the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries, the use of fisheries refugia as management tools, the integration of climate change concerns in long term planning, and the mainstreaming of biodiversity concerns into marine and coastal management are all complementary to the LME approach. While the scales of intervention vary, and regional needs will be different, it is important for these tools to be incorporated into the LME framework where appropriate.

1.1 The LME Strategic Approach Toolkit in the context of GEF LME:LEARN

LME: Learn is a GEF-UNDP-IOC/UNESCO project designed to improve global ecosystem-based governance of LMEs and their coasts by generating knowledge, building capacity, harnessing public and private partners and supporting south-to-south learning and north-to-south learning. A key element of this improved governance is mainstreaming cooperation between LME, MPA, and ICM projects in overlapping areas, both for GEF projects and for non-GEF projects. This full-scale project plans to achieve a multiplier effect using demonstrations of learning tools and toolboxes, to aid practitioners and other key stakeholders, in conducting and learning from GEF projects. 

Component 2 of the Project aims to synthesise and incorporate knowledge into policy-making, capture of best LME governance practices, and development of new methods and tools to enhance the management effectiveness of LMEs and to incorporate ICM, MPAs and climate variability and change including the 5 LME modules. 

1.2 Relationship between toolkits

The seven toolkits developed by LME: Learn are the following:

Environmental Economics toolkit

This online toolkit will be covering the following issues: design of environmental policies: strategies (standards, taxes, incentives and subsidies); cost/effect analysis; cost/benefit analysis; risk analysis; economic impact assessment; environmental impact assessment; environmental economics accounting; valuation of ecosystem services; and climate change economics.

The LME assessment toolkit (scorecard)

A standardized set of questions is being developed, which will provide a rapid, practical snapshot of the strengths and weaknesses of management across large-scale marine management areas such as LMEs. The tool will assess the basic elements of a functional large-scale management program, within the initial planning process and in subsequent years. Questions cover a wide range of management topics, such as social and political support, ecosystem-based management, and governance structure, plus observational socioeconomic and ecological outcomes within focal regions.

The GEF LME Project toolkit

The LME project toolkit (that includes project sustainability) aims to utilize the accumulated knowledge into creating a practical approach to the preparation of future LME projects. The toolkit will be of use for the preparation of complementary ICM, MPA, MSP and coastal adaptation projects.

Marine Spatial Planning toolkit

This toolkit will provide an overview and practical tools to support MSP in LMEs, and focus particularly on MSP across management boundaries.

Governance toolkit

The governance toolkit will provide an overview of management and assessment options for governance in LMEs.

Stakeholder participation toolkit

This toolkit aims to organize and share approaches that can be effectively applied across a range of disciplines and for a wide array of purposes. It will be focused on multiple audiences, acting at multiple scales, from stakeholders acting at the smallest relevant unit of decision-making, including the community or local level, to stakeholders influencing national or subnational decision making. Topics may include conflict resolution and negotiation, community participation, stakeholder engagement, and the impacts of climate change on social aspects of environmental policy.

LME strategic approach toolkit

The main objective of the activity: Developing a LME Strategic Approach Toolkit (Component 2.1.3), is to utilize the accumulated knowledge to create a strategic approach for future LME projects that will assist decision makers, project developers and managers in implementing new projects in new LMEs, as well as improving the management of old ones, both within and outside of the aegis of GEF. The toolkit re-evaluates and strengthens the ecosystem-based, 5-module approach for assessment and management of LMEs. (GEF LME:LEARN ProDoc).

The sister project, GEF UNDP IW:LEARN has funded two other projects that support the entire IW Portfolio of projects (surface freshwater, groundwater and Large Marine Ecosystems):

An analysis of existing Strategic Action Programs, highlighting good practices with regard to the SAPs that have been mainstreamed at the local, national and regional levels. The activity will consider follow-up of provisions in existing SAPs and NAPs (what elements have been implemented effectively, and what have not).

An update to the GEF TDA/SAP Manual to provide recommendations for improvement in incorporating and mainstreaming cross-sectoral, participatory, integrated, ecosystem-based approaches. 

The LME Strategic Approach toolkit complements these efforts.

1.3 LME Strategic Approach Toolkit: purpose, audience, and users

The toolkit is intended to create a legacy impact for the GEF International Waters LME Portfolio as well as other international partners, maximizing the effectiveness of the GEF IW investments and increasing the use of ecosystem-based management approaches in marine and coastal environments around the world.

The toolkit for the LME Strategic Approach has been developed for LME practitioners, large-scale marine and coastal management project specialists, LME technical advisors and others developing GEF or non-GEF national or multinational marine and coastal projects. It provides a practical approach for the development planning of large scale projects in LMEs.

The purpose of the toolkit is to describe the strategic approach to designing an LME project, incorporating an updated 5-module ecosystem approach, and the TDA/SAP process, as well as complementary tools such as ICM, MSP, the Ecosystem Based Approach to Fisheries across multiple scales, the development of MPA networks and fisheries refugia as well as climate change concerns.

The toolkit has been developed based on lessons learned from many LME regions and projects, and provides practical strategies and concrete examples of best practices and recent recommendations on how to strengthen and expand the LME Approach to incorporate new tools, and contribute towards sustaining ecosystem processes in the long term.

This report is divided into five chapters and two annexes.

Chapter One, the introduction, explains the relevance and the purpose of the LME Strategic Approach Toolkit.

Chapter Two reviews the traditional 5-module approach and looks at recommendations for strengthening the approach, particularly the socio-economic and governance elements.

Chapter Three reviews the strategic importance of TDAs, SAPs and NAPs, and recommendations for areas where they can be strengthened.

Chapter Four addresses good practice in SAP and NAP implementation

Chapter Five reviews best practice in the use of ICM, MPAs, MSP and Fisheries refugia, and recommendations for their inclusion into the strategic approach

Chapter Six presents the revised 5-module approach