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1 Key note address: Conservation and Sustainable Use of Coral Reefs by Graeme Kelleher1

1 Vice Chairman (Marine) World Commission on Protected Areas. IUCN, The World Conservation Union, PO Box 272 jamison, Canberra, ACT 2614. Australia Tel. ++ 61-2-6251-1402 Fax. ++ 61-2-6247-5761 Email.


The seas of South Asia include areas of extremely high biological productivity as well as biological diversity. Coral reefs are the most biologically diverse ecosystems on earth, but they and other marine ecosystems are subject to degradation from a variety of human activities, even though it is widely recognised that their living resources are vital to the survival of many of the region's human communities. The region has a long history of human interaction with the "natural' environment both on land and in the sea. It is necessary to preserve this cultural relationship and to build on it so as to achieve ecologically and culturally sustainable use of the marine environment.

It follows that procedures to evaluate and protect the region's coral reefs must focus on both cultural and ecological attributes. This conclusion is supported by almost universal experience from around the world. Nowhere has marine management been successful where the interests, traditions and involvement of local communities have been neglected.

As a general statement, one can summarise the problems caused by human activities which affect coral reefs (and other marine ecosystems) as;

· pollution,
· overfishing,
· physical alteration of the seabed or coastline,
· introduction of exotic species and
· climate change.

This paper will briefly address the first three.

There are two major deficiencies in our scientific and administrative systems, which place in jeopardy the attainment of ecologically sustainable management and use of coral reefs. The first is the absence of comprehensive, long term monitoring programs. This deficiency prevents us from defining the level of stresses that exist now and the trends in those levels. The second is the lack of integration of planning, management and research in the coastal zone. Without integrated programs, there is little chance that nations win be able to take the actions, on both land and sea that will be necessary to prevent insidious degradation of their marine environments, including coral reefs..

For these reasons, this paper concentrates on Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) and marine protected areas (MPAs). Both these approaches, which merge into each other in the case of large MPA's, incorporate processes for evaluation which have proved essential in the past to achieving community understanding of issues and to generating a sense of community agreement and "ownership" of solutions to problems and conflicts. It is on the basis of such community agreement that coral reefs can in practice be protected so that their great contributions to the biosphere and to human welfare can be sustained.

Addressing the Major Problems

Pollution and its Sources

By far the greatest source, of pollution of the sea is land-based human activity. Not surprisingly, the degree of marine pollution at different parts of a coastline is often closely related to the size of the adjacent human population. There are exceptions to this where, for example, a major river system discharges remotely generated pollutants into the sea.

Forms of human-induced pollution include nutrients (mainly nitrogen and phosphorus), herbicides and pesticides and their derivatives and toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

Nutrients in sewage, combined with contribution of nutrients from other sources, particularly affect coral reef ecosystems adversely, resulting in reductions in strength of calcium carbonate skeletons and smothering of corals by algae. In coral reef environments, tertiary treatment (i.e., the removal of nitrogen and phosphorus) of sewage is essential if long term degradation is to be avoided.

Soil erosion results in suspended sediments being conveyed to the sea. The resulting marine turbidity reduces the ability of corals to gain energy from sunlight and thus their ability to compete with algae.

Fortunately, the interests of farmers coincide with those of people who depend on healthy marine ecosystems. Farmers do not wish to see their lands eroded and are not happy to pay for the application of expensive fertilisers which end up in the sea. An approach which has been started in Queensland, Australia is the establishment of joint research programs, involving farmer organisations, governments, research institutions and management agencies, aimed at defining the marine problems and their causes and formulating solutions which benefit an sectors of the community as well as the natural environment.


Virtually every international marine fishery is considered by most experts to be, overfished. The evidence of impending collapse is decreasing catch/effort ratios. Input/output controls by themselves have usually not worked because pressure from the industry prevents imposition of sufficiently stringent controls until after the point of no return in the process of stock collapse has been passed.

Destructive fishing practices such as dynamite and poison fishing not only facilitate overfishing, but also lead to the destruction of the coral reef's ability to replace the fish or to provide the other critical services on which local communities depend.

These comments and the solution to the problems apply equally at local and regional levels. A possible answer to the problems of over-fishing and destruction of habitat is to combine multiple use MPA's with traditional fishery management practices. Such an integrated process would allow the various interest groups to agree on what areas and levels of protection should be provided to preserve habitats that are critical or that are representative of major habitat types which occur within each large marine ecosystem. Such protected areas fulfil the multiple roles of providing baselines against which to measure ecological changes caused by human activity, protecting critical life stages in commercially or recreationally fished species (such as nursery or refuge areas), providing sites in which to carry out ecological research and allowing tourists and the public to appreciate and enjoy relatively undisturbed marine environments.

Integrated Coastal Management provides the framework for the community as a whole to make decisions which both provide maximum benefits to the people who depend on coral reef resources as well as ensuring that the reef systems am not progressively degraded i.e. ICM is the key to conservation and sustainable use of coral reefs.

Physical Alteration of the Seabed or Coastline

Destruction of coastal coral reefs and their associated ecosystems for coastal development continues to occur in most parts of the world largely because these developments occur in an unplanned, uncoordinated and disintegrated fashion. Decisions are made without taking into account adverse ecological and economic consequences of destruction of natural coastal environments. Activities such as dredging, harbour construction etc. change water patterns and sediment regimes, often with ecologically undesirable results.

The ecological and economic costs of these piecemeal decisions are rarely taken into account in government approval processes. There is a great need for co-ordinated, integrated planning of the coastal environment in order to achieve both ecologically sustainable development and economically rationally use of coastal resources. This planning must be based on information provided by integrated, multi-disciplinary, ecological research, which defines the interdependencies of the various parts of the marine ecosystem and the coastal zone. This is unlikely to be carried out and the results applied in practice without the involvement of key stakeholders, particularly the local community, in all aspects of planning and research in accordance with the principles of Integrated Coastal Management, which are outlined below.

Integrated Coastal Management

Marine environments are particularly vulnerable to over-exploitation because they include large areas traditionally considered to be "commons". That is, they are not owned by anyone and everyone is entitled to use Them.. Before and since Garrett Hardin's essay The Tragedy of the Commons (1968), there has been ample evidence that the long term effect of uncontrolled human activity on the commons is usually to destroy them. Furthermore, coasts often include areas where a diversity of incompatible activities compete for limited space and resources. In the case of some activities, the profits and benefits are confined to minorities, while costs am imposed on the community and the environment.

Although a clear understanding of the factors involved is often Lacking, widespread concern over the condition of coastal environments has led to demands by the Public for the right to participate in decisions affecting the coast and for better protection of coastal resources. As a result, there has been parallel Development of ICM and MPA programs in various parts of the world that actively involve the public in improving the management of coastal areas, In economic terms, these methods aim to ensure that the costs generated by one sector of society are not imposed on another sector or on the community generally.

Integrated Coastal Management is a process that unites government and the community, science and management, sectoral and public interests in preparing and implementing an integrated plan for the protection and development of coastal ecosystems and resources. The overall goal of ICM is to improve the quality of life of human communities who depend on coastal resources while maintaining the biological diversity and productivity of coastal ecosystems (GESAMP, 1996).

Expressed in this way, the goal of ICM is clearly consistent with national and international commitments to sustainable development for all environments (terrestrial and marine), from the headwaters of catchments (watersheds) to the outer Limits of exclusive economic zones (EEZ), whether or not they are subject to multiple jurisdiction.

A subordinate goal of ICM is to provide an equitable, transparent and dynamic management process that is acceptable to the community.

Introduction to a region of a country of a comprehensive ICM project is very difficult. It is often advisable to focus on a few, relatively small-scale, areas where management policies and techniques can be implemented and to postpone attempts to manage an entire coastal ecosystem until community and governments have developed the capacity to manage as well as commitment. Trial and demonstration of the effectiveness of methodology in MPAs can be an effective starting point. This is often the most responsible approach to dealing with a crisis, such as coral reef blasting, where some early action may be needed pending development of overall commitment and capacity.

Many references exist in the world's literature to the methods necessary to achieve community support for management. The criteria for selection of Marine Protected Areas which appear in IUCN's Guide lines for Establishing Marine Protected Areas (Kelleher and Kenchington, 1992) place strong emphasis on social (cultural) criteria. These have been the subject of careful evaluation over the past seven years in various countries and fora. They are, in summary;

biogeographic importance;
ecological importance;
economic importance
social importance
scientific importance
international or national significance; and

The criteria in full can also be found in A Global Representative System of marine Protected Areas (Kelleher et al, 1995).

The ICM Process

The traditional ICM process can be conceived of as repetition of a cycle of five successive stages. (Fig 1). At the end of each cycle, the stages are repeated in sequence in the next cycle. In other words, ICM is a continuing process, not a single event. It is this continuity that allows ICM to adapt to changing natural conditions and to changing human requirements, knowledge and technology.(GESAMP, 1996). The five stages are:

STAGE 1. Issue Identification and Assessment.

This stage consists of compiling, integrating and prioritising information that defines the environmental, cultural and institutional context within which the ICM program will proceed. It is the first, formal stage in the evaluation process.

STAGE 2. Program Preparation.

In contrast to the relatively rapid assessments of Stage 1, this Stage involves a more protracted planning process that may take several years.. The main purpose is to develop a management plan that constitutes 'a vision for the future' and that expresses, in realistic and tangible arms, the qualities of the environment to be achieved and maintained, the way in which resources should be allocated and any necessary changes in patterns of resource use and human behaviour more sustainable forms of coastal development

Figure 1. The stages of the ICM cycle to which sciences contribute.

The dynamic nature of ICM requires feedback's among the stages and may alter the sequence, or require repetition of some stages.

STAGE 3. Formal adoption and funding of the program.

Formal adoption of a program will generally require a 'high-level' administrative decision, for example by the head of a government agency, a minister or the cabinet, or perhaps by presidential endorsement. It will include consideration and agreement of a budget (i.e. levels and sources of funding) for each phase of the program.

STAGE 4: Program Implementation

At this stage in the ICM process the management plan becomes operational and the emphasis shifts to the introduction of new forms of resource development and use, new institutional arrangements and monitoring systems and the application of new controls, regulations and incentives.

Enforcement is an essential element of program implementation and one which clearly demands a constant supply of reliable and readily interpretable monitoring data.

Successful implementation of an ICM program invariably presents new, sometimes unforeseen, challenges and the ICM team must be able to respond to these while maintaining momentum within the core program. Some of the additional tasks to perform might include.

* conflict resolution;
* public education;
* inter-agency co-ordination;
* training of management or enforcement problems;
* infra structural changes;
* planning and research on new areas or problems.

STAGE 5. Evaluation

This stage, where the greatest learning should occur, has been omitted or performed in a superficial manner in a great majority of coastal management initiatives. Yet, if ICM programs are to proceed through a series of cycles or generations to more sustainable forms of coastal development, this stage should be the critical juncture between one cycle and the next. The evaluation stage must address two broad questions:

· What has the preceding cycle of the program accomplished and learned and
· how should this experience affect the design and focus of the next cycle?

In other words, how has the context (e.g. environment, governance) changed since the program was initiated? This, in essence, sets the stage for repeating the assessments in Stage 1.

A meaningful evaluation can be conducted only if the program objectives have been stated in unambiguous terms and if indicators for assessing progress were identified in Stages 2 and 3, and monitored during the preceding generation. Baseline data are essential. Many evaluations yield ambiguous results because these preconditions for assessing performance do not exist.

Integrating Science and Culture.

Public perceptions about the past, current and future status of the coastal environment and its resources, and how and why they should be managed are invaluable in developing strategies for a coastal management program. While not expressed in formal instruments such as laws and institutions, perceptions, aspirations and world views directly influence how a society manages its natural resources.

Experience has shown that, for ICM programs to work, managers and scientists must work together to achieve community support, minimising the creation of conflict and enmity and maximising opportunities to identify common interests. The generation of a commitment to a team approach is necessary for real co-operation.

Community groups must be involved in the design, conduct and interpretation of research that has the potential to lead to management decisions that seriously affect them. Otherwise they are likely to deny the validity of the research results and oppose strongly the decisions based on them.

Scientists and managers must work together continuously if science is to be relevant and applied to management decisions, lie two professions speak different languages, have different perspectives and imperatives and approach the solution of problems in different ways. They have to learn to work together effectively, for instance in posing management relevant questions in ways that allow them to be addressed by science.

Attachment 1 identifies the simple rules, in addition to those just mentioned, that have been demonstrated in practice to determine whether or not scientists and managers can effectively apply their disparate talents, methods and perceptions to the solution of marine and coastal problems in ways which protect the ecological and cultural heritage of a country, while contributing to the welfare of the human community.

Marine Protected Areas.

Marine protected areas can either form vital components of ICM or, if like the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park they encompass a complete marine ecosystem, they can be synonymous with ICM.

IUCN has had a major program to create MPAs for a number of years.- The first major phase of IUCN's program to establish a global representative system of marine protected areas was completed with the publication by IUCN in 1992 of Guidelines for Establishing Marine Protected Areas (Kelleher and Kenchington, 1992) and, in 1995, in association with the World Bank and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), of the four volume report A Global Representative System of Marine Protected Areas (Kelleher, Bleakley and Wells (Eds), 1995).

This latter Report lists existing marine protected areas in each of the 18 major biogeographic regions into which the world's coastal seas have been divided and identifies priorities, on both regional and national bases, for establishing new MPAs or for improving management in those which exist but are poorly managed or not managed at all. As well, general recommendations are made relating to the protection and sustainable use of marine biological diversity and productivity, with particular emphasis on the need for management regimes which provide for integrated management of ecosystems, either by incorporating complete ecosystems in MPAs or by using MPAs as a component of a wider integrated system of planning and management.

Dr. Swaminathan is the IUCN MPA Working Group leader for the Central Indian Ocean (South Asia).

It is worth noting that there is a general recognition that MPAs which consist of one or more highly protected core areas, surrounded by areas (buffer zones) with lower levels of protection, offer significant advantages over the "classical" model of a small, highly protected MPA surrounded by areas that are subject to very little management. Those advantages include:

· the ability to protect the core area from effects generated outside that core area; and

· the opportunity to provide explicitly for commercial or productive activities in the buffer zones which are compatible with the protection of the core area, thus contributing to the sustainable welfare of the community and generating community support.

This model is consistent with and was developed in parallel with the Biosphere Reserve concept.

Because properly managed MPAs protect habitat, as opposed to individual species, they contribute strongly to the conservation of biodiversity, as well as sustainable use, whether or not there is significant knowledge regarding the species that occupy or use the habitat or habitats that are included in the MPA. In the face of continued acceleration in the over-exploitation of marine ecosystems in many parts of the world, MPAs represent an essential part of any strategy for maintaining marine biodiversity. However, they will not by themselves be able to constitute such a strategy, except in the rare cases where an MPA includes a complete ecosystem, because many species and habitats will not be adequately represented in any system of protected areas and because protected areas are vulnerable to the effects of human activities outside their borders. Protected areas must operate within a system of integrated ecosystem management if they are to be effective.

Local community involvement in MPAs and ICM.

In most countries, there is a long history of public or sectoral use of marine areas close to the coast, often for subsistence purposes. It is thus generally the case that consideration of continuing human use within and adjacent to MPAs must play a major role in their selection, design and management. Humanitarian, economic and pragmatic considerations often mean that where there is a choice of ecologically suitable areas, the dominant criteria for selection of MPA locations, boundaries and management systems will be socio-economic. Clearly, where there are few, if any alternative sites, ecological criteria should be critical and decisive.

Attempts to exclude traditional human uses from protected areas may jeopardise the physical or economic survival of the people. Community opposition will, in such cases, be very strong and will jeopardise successful management of these areas. It is often better to establish and successfully manage a MPA which may not be ideal in ecological terms but which nevertheless achieves the purposes for which it is established than it is to labour futilely to create the theoretically "ideal" MPA. The problems affecting choice of area and boundaries are reduced if political, legal and social conditions allow the creation of large MPAs covering complete marine ecosystems. Education is usually the means by which such community conditions are established. This allows integrated management regimes to be established which provide for continued human use while achieving conservation objectives.

Therefore, every effort should be made to ensure that local communities stand to gain economically and socially from the operation of a MPA. Developing locally owned, managed and staffed tourist enterprises is one approach that has been successful. Another has been the creation or conformation of exclusive fishing rights to local communities, thus providing an incentive to protect areas critical to fish production, such as nursery areas or coral reefs.

Capacity building and training.

In most parts of the world there is an urgent need for improvement in the capacities of local communities and of officials to manage human activities so that use of the marine environment is ecologically sustainable. In most places the greatest deficiency is in the application of the social sciences- how to inform, motivate and empower communities and officials so that they will work co-operatively and effectively to develop and apply practices that do not degrade the ecosystems on which they depend.

Under the aegis of UNEP's Regional Co-ordinating Unit of the East Asian Seas Action 91 Plan, a compendium of staff training materials for management of MPAs has been developed and applied in South East Asia (Kenchington and Ch'ng, 1994). These materials were designed specifically for application in the Region, but they form an excellent base for review for application in other parts of the world.


Sustainable development has been defined as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs". The historical approach by developed economies to the use of natural resources in the sea have failed to be sustainable largely because of the factors encapsulated in the phrase " the tragedy of the commons" (Hardin, 1968). The reliance on sectoral management, which fails to take account of effects of sectoral activities on other sectors, has shown that integrated coastal management is a necessity. Equally, the almost universal failure of traditional fishery management, based on control of fishing effort and/or catch, to prevent stock collapse and ecological damage, shows that new approaches are needed.

Marine protected areas are vital components of integrated ecosystem management regimes. They can provide almost complete protection of important elements of marine ecosystems and, if large enough, can protect entire ecosystems. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is the best example of the latter type of MPA, protecting an area more than twice as large as the island of Java while allowing economic activity worth more than $ 1000 million per year and supporting a fishing industry worth about $300 million per year.

Marine protected areas, if they either by themselves or as part of integrated management programs encompass complete ecosystems, can provide for the needs of the present while ensuring that the ecological processes on which all life depends are protected for future generations, lie involvement of local communities in the establishment and operation of MPAs and the provision of definable economic and social benefits to those communities from the MPAs is vital in all societies.


1. GESAMP (IMO/FAO/UNESCO-IOC/WMO/WHO/IAEA/UNEP joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection). 1996. The Contributions of Science to Integrated Coastal Management.. Rep. Stud. GESAMP, (6I):66 p.

2. HARDIN, G 1968 The Tragedy of the Commons. Science Vp: 162 pp, 1243-1248

3. HAYDEN, B.P., G.C. Ray, and R. Dolan. 1984, Classification of Coastal and Marine Environments. Environmental Conservation 1 1 (3): 199-207

4. KELLEHER, G.G., and R.A. Kenchington. 1992. Guidelines for Establishing Marine Protected Areas. A Marine Conservation and Development Report. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, vii + 79 pp.

5. KELLEHER, G.G., C. Bleakley and S. Wells. Eds. 1995. A Global Representative System of Marine Protected Areas. Ale Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the World Bank and IUCN, the World Conservation Union. Washington. D.C.

6. KENCHINGTON, R. and Ch'ng, K.L (Eds) 1994. Staff Training Materials for the Management of Marine Protected Areas. RCU/EAS Technical Report Series No. 4. UNEP, 1994

Attachment 1

Rules for Scientists and Manager to Work Together Successfully in ICM.

The following summary identifies the simple rules that have been demonstrated in practice to determine whether or not scientists and managers can effectively apply their disparate talents, methods and perceptions to the solution of marine and coastal problems in ways which protect the ecological and cultural heritage of a country, while contributing to the welfare of the human community.(GESAMP, 1996)

· Scientists and managers must work together continuously throughout the ICM program. It is not enough for the relationship between the two groups of people to be sporadic or occasional;

· managers must make decisions, whether or not unequivocal scientific information is available. We have learned that managers should base their decisions on;

· trends rather than states,

· the precautionary principle so that where there is doubt about the outcome of the matter, the decision should err on the side of preventing environmental damage,

· priorities i.e. management effort and scientific effort should be related to the importance of the issues. At present we are far from this,

· scientists are unlikely to address management issues unless there am incentives provided within the system for them to do so. Experience has shown that the transmission of a proportion of the funds for research through the management agencies will provide such incentive:

· managers and scientists, working together, must monitor the results of management decisions and adapt management to the results of that monitoring;

· managers will never be successful without community support. In a democratic society, governments follow community opinion. Therefore managers and scientists must work so as to achieve community support for decisions which protect the ecology of the area being managed,

· critical stakeholders must be involved in the design, conduct and interpretation of research that has the potential to lead to management decisions that seriously affect them. Otherwise they are likely to deny the validity of the research results and oppose strongly the decisions based on them.

· there are likely to be many opponents to ICM, both potential and real, in the community. Our mutual efforts will only be successful if we minimise the creation of enemies and maximise the opportunities to identify common interests. A particular example of this is the issue of run-off from the mainland of nutrients and suspended sediments. Farmers are just as interested as are those who care for the marine environment in preventing the removal of these materials from their farmlands. Our presentations and attitudes should reflect the fact that we recognise the commonality of our interests.

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