Definition

Coastal areas are commonly defined as the interface or transition areas between land and sea, including large inland lakes. Coastal areas are diverse in function and form, dynamic and do not lend themselves well to definition by strict spatial boundaries. Unlike watersheds, there are no exact natural boundaries that unambiguously delineate coastal areas.

Nevertheless, for management purposes, a variety of landwards and seawards boundaries, ranging from fairly narrow and precise boundaries to broader and more nebulous ones, have been utilized around the world. Management boundaries are pragmatic, being influenced geographically by biophysical, economic, social, institutional and organizational aspects. Therefore, the boundaries of a coastal area may change over time for management purposes, as the issues to be faced become more extensive or complex and require more far-ranging solutions.

The multifaceted approach to the management of coastal resources has become known as integrated coastal management (ICM), integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) or integrated coastal area management (ICAM). Pernetta and Elder (1993) have described it as meaning 'the process of combining all aspects of the human, physical and biological aspects of the coastal zone within a single management framework'. However, they have preferred the term 'holistic coastal management' to emphasize that 'careful planning and management of all sectoral activities simultaneously will result in greater overall benefits than pursuing sectoral development plans independently of one another.'

An overview of coastal area management

Purpose of ICM The aim of ICM is to guide coastal area development in an ecologically sustainable fashion.
Principles ICM is guided by the Rio Principles with special emphasis on the principle of intergenerational equity, the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle. ICM is holistic and interdisciplinary in nature, especially with regard to science and policy.
Functions ICM strengthens and harmonizes sectoral management in the coastal zone. It preserves and protects the productivity and biological diversity of coastal ecosystems and maintains amenity values. ICM promotes the rational economic development and sustainable utilization of coastal and ocean resources and facilitates conflict resolution in the coastal zone.
Spatial integration An ICM programme embraces all coastal and upland areas, the uses of which can affect coastal waters and the resources therein, and extends seaward to include that part of the coastal ocean that can affect the land of the coastal zone. The ICM programme may also include the entire ocean area under national jurisdiction (Exclusive Economic Zone), over which national governments have stewardship responsibilities under both the Law of the Sea Convention and UNCED.
Horizontal and vertical integration Overcoming the sectoral and intergovernmental fragmentation that exists in today's coastal management efforts is a prime goal of ICM. Institutional mechanisms for effective coordination among various sectors active in the coastal zone and between the various levels of government operating in the coastal zone are fundamental to the strengthening and rationalization of the coastal management process. From the variety of available options, the coordination and harmonization mechanism must be tailored to fit the unique aspects of each particular national government setting.
The use of science Given the complexities and uncertainties that exist in the coastal zone, ICM must be built upon the best science (natural and social) available. Techniques such as risk assessment, economic valuation, vulnerability assessments, resource accounting, benefit-cost analysis and outcome-based monitoring should all be built into the ICM process, as appropriate.

Cicin-Sain, B., Knecht, R.W. & Fisk, G.W. 1995. Growth capacity for integrated coastal management since UNCED: an international perspective. Ocean Coastal Management, 29(1-3): 93-123.


Pernetta, J.C. & Elder, D.L.
1993. Cross-sectoral integrated and coastal area planning (CICAP): guidelines and principles for coastal area development. A marine conservation and development report. Gland, Switzerland, IUCN in collaboration with World Wide Fund for Nature. 63 pp.
last updated:  Thursday, November 3, 2005