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Comanagement of natural resources involves shared management authority and responsibility between resource users or community groups at local levels and central government authorities. In data-poor, small-scale fisheries systems, community-based planning efforts can be informed by participatory research approaches that involve community members and stakeholder groups in the design, development, and implementation of research. This article draws upon research in Maunalua Bay, O‘ahu, Hawai‘i, to illustrate the utility of participatory assessments in communities, institutions, and organizations as they transition toward comanagement arrangements. A community-led survey effort revealed temporal changes in habitat use patterns and declines in key fisheries species and habitats. Fishing activities in Maunalua Bay are primarily non-commercial in nature and many of the direct benefits from local fisheries are distributed through social-kinship networks. The fishing community exhibited a high capacity for engagement in community-based planning efforts and also provided input on proposed management measures. The article concludes by documenting the social and environmental factors that influence the distribution of coral reef fisheries ecosystem services, and assessing sliding baselines among community fishers. Participatory resource assessments hold promise for building local social adaptive capacity, bringing together disparate stakeholder groups, and building place-based natural resource management plans reflective of local contexts and community priorities.