The failure to meet global biodiversity targets clearly indicates the need for biodiversity management and conservation efforts to be more effective, and this in turn requires better understanding of the current barriers to success. Islands are known as biodiversity hotspots but nowhere has biodiversity loss been so acute as in island ecosystems. To identify the barriers to effective island ecosystem conservation, we conducted 32 semistructured interviews with conservation and management practitioners from island nations in the Western Indian Ocean region. Practitioners described 33 barriers to meeting their objectives under 12 overarching topics and suggested 14 solutions to these. Most barriers described by interviewees existed at organization level (55%), followed by national (24%) and site/project level (21%). Of the 33 barriers described by practitioners, the most commonly associated cause was limited capacity (23.5%), followed by lack of government coordination and limited resources (both 21.6%), lack of incentives (11.8%), poor leadership (11.7%), and finally interpersonal issues interfering with progress (9.8%). Most solutions centered around bridging capacity gaps. By defining these barriers, we can bring them forward for discussion and allocate resources and efforts to bridging them. Only by doing so can we increase the effectiveness of our management efforts and maximize our chances of achieving global biodiversity targets.