The development of mass tourism and transport, and the industrialization of coastal areas, islands and the sea, demand specific policies for these regions in order to ensure their balanced development and co-ordinated urbanization, bearing in mind the requirements of environmental conservation and regional characteristics. Regard must be given to the specific role and functions of coastal areas in the land-sea relationship.
The majority of the world's biomass or living material is contained within the oceans. Their biological wealth is concentrated along a narrow strip formed by the continental shelves, coastal margins and estuaries. This zone has the highest biological productivity on Earth, and comprises some of the world's most productive and diverse ecosystems, including mangroves, saltmarshes, coral reefs, mudflats, seagrass and seaweed beds. These habitats provide food and shelter for a great variety of organisms, and many services for people. Here are the major fishing grounds, providing more than 80% of the world's fishing catch. The oceans also supply humanity with energy and other resources. These contributions can grow as technology advances and the resources of the land become more scarce.
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.
Establishment of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) brought extensive resources under the control of coastal states, encompassing 40% of the sea and 30% of the Earth's surface. However, "common property" and lack of effective control persist. The United Nations convention on the law of the sea was adopted in 1982 and came into force in November 1994. It is the first comprehensive, enforceable international marine law.
Fisheries have been grossly mismanaged; coastal land suffers from poorly planned and regulated urbanization, industrialization, aquaculture, tourism, port development and flood control; and nearshore coastal waters continue to deteriorate. Resource exploitation, changes to habitats and disruption of ecosystem functions probably pose more serious threats to many marine and coastal areas than pollution.