Coastal zones currently support the bulk of the world's population and will absorb most of its increase when the global population is expected to reach 8.5 billion by the year 2020. Six out of ten people live within 60 kilometres of coastal waters. They not only depend on its resources but also largely determine its state of ecological health. As a result of human activities both inland and in the coastal zone, such as over-fishing, land reclamation and pollution dumping, coastal and open ocean ecosystems and resources are deteriorating rapidly in many parts of the world. Within the next 20-30 years the population of the coastal zone is projected to roughly double bringing increased pressures which can bring about further environmental degradation. Marine resources are usually treated as communal or state property. The ecosystems and resources of the open ocean beyond 200 miles from the coast are still access resources, and there is no comprehensive legal regime to regulate their use. Many nations have signed conventions, agreements and action plans on marine resource use and marine protection, but many nations lack the resources to fulfil their obligations.
Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) uses an integrated decision making process supported by coastal assessment tools to ensure sustainable use of resources, mitigate users' conflicts, protect biodiversity, and restore disrupted ecosystems.