This paper summarizes the results of a women’s community-based marine protected area that has been successful in sustaining invertebrate biological resources and in promoting strong community support. We outline the project and the associated biological results, describe the processes involved in attaining a committed level of community participation, and review the lessons learned during the project’s implementation. We attribute the project’s preliminary success—improved shellfish biomass, enhanced local environmental awareness, and the reinvigoration of cultural management practices—to the following factors: 1) the high level of participatory involvement and community leadership; 2) the local perception that shell beds have recovered rapidly and the role that scientific evaluation has played in reinforcing this notion; 3) a research program that is cross-fertilizing indigenous and scientific ecological knowledge; 4) the unique marine tenure system that allows for the project’s development and the area’s policing; and 5) the tangible economic incentives created by the development project, which ultimately empowers local women. We hope that the project’s findings can be generalized to other regions of the world with operational sea-tenure regimes and that it can help to make the establishing of community-based marine protected areas (CBMPAs) across the Pacific region more effective.

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