Depending upon the institutional framework, coral reef ecosystems and local economic development can be synergistic. When managed properly through local institutions, coral reef systems can deliver ecosystem services that create livelihoods and increase local prosperity in dependent communities. This study compares two community-based reef management institutions. One is located in a community with a reef struggling to recover from destructive fishing, the other in a community that has experienced a remarkable recovery. Using mixed methods, long-form interviews, and surveys of reef tourism stakeholders, this uses institutional characteristics to predict reef quality. Certain institutional components hypothesized to predict reef quality did not; these include universal membership requirements for reef stakeholders, stakeholder familiarity with leadership and hierarchies, and transparent decision-making and implementation of management policy. This means that one size fits all prescriptions for local reef management institutions should be viewed with caution. Instead, the success of management institutions may depend upon both the path toward economic development, access to technology that facilitates coral recovery, and communication of conservation strategies to tourist visitors.
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