Ensuring sustainable development of coastal zones

Developing integrated environmental policy for coasts
Reducing unsustainable development of coastalines
Providing coherent management of coastal regions

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.

Preparing coastal profiles
Establishing offshore zones
Monitoring coastal environment
Conserving estuarine ecosystems
Developing coastal resource planning
Establishing marine conservation zones
Exchanging information on coastal areas
Developing human resources in coastal zones
Building databases for assessing coastal zones
Undertaking education on coastal zone management
Implementing integrated coastal development plans
Ensuring adequate infrastructure in coastal zones
Ensuring adequate infrastructure in coastal zones
Preparing national guidelines for coastal management
Ensuring local participation in coastal zone management
Applying environmental quality criteria in coastal zones
Ensuring adequate employment alternatives in coastal zones
Limiting utilization of coastal and deep sea water resources
Reducing harmful impacts of human settlements in coastal zones
Coordinating sectoral programmes for management of coastal zones
Facilitating environmentally sound technologies for coastal zones
Increasing coastal zone management capabilities at the local level
Assessing external factors affecting sustainable coastal development
Controlling harmful levels of artificial discharge to coastal waters
Supporting integrated coastal zone management in developing countries
Supporting sustainable development of small island developing countries
Providing public information on sustainable development in coastal zones
Incorporating traditional knowledge in coastal zone management programmes
Strengthening cooperation on coastal zone management with developing countries
Supporting coastal zone management training programmes in developing countries
Undertaking pilot projects on integrated marine and coastal resource management
Type Classification:
C: Cross-sectoral strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 2: Zero HungerGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 6: Clean Water and SanitationGOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 14: Life Below WaterGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong InstitutionsGOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal