6. Revised strategic approach

The revised approach, as presented in Figure 3 below, aims to update and describe the traditional 5-module LME approach, with a clear link to the recommended TDA/SAP mechanism for transboundary assessment and management reform, while demonstrating the scale of some component activities, and complementary approaches / management tools. The emphasis is on governance assessment, revision, and reform as the key feature to the process.

Figure 3. Summary of the revised strategic approach

Summary of the revisited strategic approach

6.1 Overall LME Project design

The LME Project toolkit (Section 1. Background and introduction) provides an overview of the project cycle, and elements necessary for the process of developing and running a LME Project.

6.2 Regional thematic reports

Regional thematic reports are frequently written to summarise and present the most recent literature and findings related to marine and coastal transboundary biophysical resources, socio-economic or governance conditions. 
►TDA/SAP Manual

6.3 National Diagnostic Analyses (NDA)

As an alternative to regional thematic reports, or sometimes in addition to them, some LMEs have supported the development of National Diagnostic Analyses in participating countries as a precursor to the regional TDA. This has been demonstrated to be a very useful tool as the first step in the process of TDA development in certain regions. The Agulhas and Somali Current LME Project, for example, invested two years in the development and support of national-level technical teams who coordinated the production of a multidisciplinary Marine Ecosystem Diagnostic Analysis (MEDA), based on published data, grey literature and new data collected during the LME project. This was done in addition to other regional surveys and served to build a sense of national ownership in the TDA (ASCLME/SWIOFP 2012).

6.4 Inter-ministerial committees (IMC)

Interministerial Committees serve to facilitate the inter-ministerial dialogue necessary for cooperation. IMCs can play a vital role in the TDA/SAP process by providing for intersectoral engagement as well as better communication between projects and processes (eg between IMC and MSP and MPA activities). The objective of the TDA/SAP process is to achieve high level support for the transboundary management of an LME, and as one of the first steps to achieving this, establishing a committee at national level can build a firm base of support in each of the participating countries.

6.5 Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis

A Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) is a tool for assessing the state of a Large Marine Ecosystem. A TDA is usually based on a number of fact-based reports, either defined by theme (regional thematic reports) or by participating country (National Diagnostic Analyses), or a combination of the two. A causal chain analysis is an essential component of the process of developing a TDA, the results of which are a series of prioritized issues facing the ecosystem. The next component is a draft selection of options for investment and reform in order to resolve the ecosystem issues, some of which are taken forward into a Strategic Action Programme.

The TDA/SAP manual provides step-by-step guidance for the development of a regional TDA and a SAP.

From the outset, project managers and stakeholders in an LME need to plan and design the TDA to ensure that the analysis and fact finding is strategic, relevant, topical, is of an appropriate scale, and that it includes emerging issues. This is essential if conclusions are to be drawn that lead to policy change and real action. The TDA process must already consider SAP implementation needs, limitations and arrangements, as well as long term partnerships for ecosystem management.

The knowledge needs assessment is critical and needs to cover the traditional biophysical bases, but MUST have an emphasis on governance arrangements and socio-economic data, including blue economy costs and benefits. LME projects can make a real difference by gathering social and economic information that may not already be available, and presenting it in such a form that decision-makers can easily see the consequences of management options, to their commercial industries as well as to coastal populations and artisanal users. The value of ecosystem services, and an understanding of alternative livelihoods, and how feasible these may be, must be considered. 

The Environmental Economics toolkit provides useful, practical tools for these assessments.

In the design of thematic reports or National Diagnostic analyses that inform the TDA, the tools for SAP implementation must be considered upfront. For example:

If conservation tools are particularly important, ensure that the Marine Protected Areas sector has a leading role to play, and that biodiversity and MPA-relevant aspects are thoroughly covered in the TDA;

if one or more MSP processes are underway or planned, ensure that all the MSP-relevant sectors are engaged in the TDA process.

The TDA should be a multipurpose tool, as resources are often limited in national agencies responsible for reporting to related conventions and complementary approaches. In the design of a TDA, it would make sense to harmonise some parameters to make a clear link to other global assessments and agreements for which reporting is required, such as the TWAP, SDG14, TEEB for oceans, the World Oceans Assessment process, and other indicator programmes such as the Ocean Health Index.

6.6 The 5-module ecosystem approach

The ecosystem-based 5-module approach to management and assessment of LMEs was developed in order to ensure the inclusion of all aspects of the ecosystem, during the implementation of the LME approach. The five modules are discussed and described in some detail in Chapter Two, with a reference to the suite of indicators for the five modules, developed by the GEF-funded TWAP:

Fish and Fisheries,


Pollution & Ecosystem Health,

Socio-economics, and


The LME Approach, incorporating the 5-module ecosystem approach, as well as the TDA/SAP/NAP design, should be an integrated, multidisciplinary approach that attempts to improve on the traditional sectoral and country-based approach to ecosystem management.

6.7 Causal Chain analysis

The causal chain analysis is a process of taking the issues and concerns that were identified during TDA development, and identifying their direct, indirect and root causes. This allows appropriate policy interventions to be developed and focused where they will have the greatest benefit. Causal links are identified between environmental and socio-economic impacts, economic sectors and root causes that are responsible.

The methodologies used to develop and also to present causal chains differs between water bodies. The TDA/SAP manual TDA/SAP manual – Section 3.9 Causal chain Analysis describes the advantages of the two main formats:

Table 5: Causal Chain Analysis characteristics

Causal chain Analysis

6.8 Strategic Action Programme

A Strategic Action Programme is an agreed, multinational framework for strategic actions to protect the coastal and marine environment. In the context of GEF IW recommended methods, it should be based on the factual Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis with guidance from the causal chain analysis. A SAP is a negotiated document, the success of which is largely based on a shared understanding of the challenges facing marine and coastal management, and pragmatic, possible solutions.

The TDA/SAP manual provides step-by-step guidance for the development of a regional TDA and a SAP.

Good practice in Strategic Action Programme implementation

6.9 National Action Plans

NAP are developed together with, or following the development of the regional SAP. NAPs are the mechanism through which transboundary policy reform can be operationalised and realized in national policy harmonization or change.(see section 4.2. Good practice in NAP implementation: Elements for formulating NAPs and operationalisation of National Interministerial Committees) Link to TWAP and to the LME Scorecard for projects/LMEs to choose their own indicators as appropriate.

6.10 Complementary tools

Since the first GEF IW strategy, GEF has recognised and supported instruments like ICM and MPA development and management as important tools for sustaining ecosystem health. ICM and MPA projects have been requested of the GEF, by countries, and have been approved. These tend to address concerns and requirements at a different scale than the broader LMEs. It is essential to incorporate these tools into LME work, to address transboundary concerns at the national and local level (Duda 2016).

Instead of being separate projects, ICM or MPA elements should be programmed into SAPs to address management concerns at sub-LME and sub-national scale. The Vietnam example, of programming projects at different scales is one approach. Probably a more desirable approach is to integrate ICM and MPA projects and LMMA / fisheries refugia projects as demonstration projects in LME-wide projects.

The PEMSEA series of projects in seven LMEs of East Asia focussed on ICM, spatial management (zoning), and inclusion of MPAs (Duda 2016).

In several SAP projects, these tools and others have been employed to complement the TDA/SAP LME approach. The GEF-5 strategy further realized the need for country support to address the challenges of increasing climate variability and change (sea-level change, ocean warming, ocean acidification, shifts in productivity and fish stocks, and reduced ecosystem resilience). GEF-5 supported governance reforms at local, national and regional scale to integrate ecosystem-based approaches such as ICM and MSP, which take human health into account as well as ecosystem health (IW Learn ProDoc).

Many of the LME project successes to date have been made possible through partnerships with other public and private organisations such as IOC/UNESCO, IUCN, NOAA, UNEP, FAO, UNIDO, ICES and the World Bank. Working collectively, guidance and management, training and cooperation tools have been developed. Several IOC/UNESCO programmes contribute scientific and technical input into LME programmes, and these contributions could also be better incorporated to improve the long-term benefits and sustainability of GEF investment. Complementary approaches / management tools may include but are not limited to:

An Ecosystem Based Approach to Fisheries,

Integrated Coastal Management (ICM),

Marine Spatial Planning (MSP),

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and

Fisheries refugia.

SAP implementation projects and NAPs should make better use of these complementary tools to tie these national and local governance approaches into the LME approach. ICM projects should also utilize terrestrial and marine spatial planning and conservation tools, plus link to the adjacent work of Regional Fisheries bodies and initiatives in ABNJ. Partnerships with other expert groups such as IOC/UNESCO for MSP, the joint work of the CBD and GEF- STAP should be ensured so that existing tools and guides can be used to incorporate these measures into the work of the LMEs (Duda 2016).

6.11 Project assessment

The LME Scorecard toolkit provides a system and indicators for LME Project assessment and review.

6.12 Stakeholder engagement

Throughout the process of development of the TDA and SAP, considerable effort must be made to involve all relevant sectors, stakeholders and the public in the process. The TDA is itself a useful tool for multi-sectoral consultation and exchanges of information and perspectives (Wang 2004).

Stakeholder engagement toolkit