This brief aims to engage Directors of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in East Africa in ensuring their staff have the right skills, right level of competence in those skills, and the knowhow to apply these skills to more effectively manage MPAs. This requires recognized standards in key competency areas against which staff capacity should be assessed to ensure they have the right tools for the job. Such a program exists—Western Indian Ocean Certification of Marine Protected Area Professionals (WIO-COMPAS). Tested and proven, WIO-COMPAS can help MPA leadership ensure the right people are being hired for the job and stay on the job. Staffs who meet the rigorous standards are “certified” as MPA professionals; staffs that need to improve their skills are provided with training, education, and/or on-the-job experience to help them earn certification. Unlike one-off training programs, WIO-COMPAS provides organizations with a complete professional development system that easily integrates with existing organizational processes. Embedding the WIO-COMPAS certification program into an institution’s human resource administration system offers a wise return-on-investment—one that translates into more confident, skilled, and committed staff and a more effectively managed MPA over the longer term.