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Coastal Zone Management

This page is one of a series of web pages developed by the CAR/RCU on various Environmental Issues in the Caribbean. These pages are a good starting point for research into many of the pressing concerns of the nations and territories of the Wider Caribbean Region. They contain definitions, descriptions, discussions, links to relevant on-line documents and web sites.


The coastal zone contains some of the planet’s most productive ecosystems with rich biodiversity reserves. The coast also supports the majority of the planet’s human population. In the Wider Caribbean, as elsewhere, the coastal zone is integral to the social and economic life of the region, and has been so ever since the first settlers arrived in the area. An estimated 40% of the human population in the Wider Caribbean region resides within two kilometers of the coast.

Loosely defined, the coastal zone includes both the area of land subject to marine influences and the area of the sea subject to land influences. A more rigorous definition divides the coastal zone into three main components: the sea, the beach, and the land behind the beach. The sea, or offshore area, extends from the low water mark seaward. This area covers the shallow marine habitats of the coast, such as the seagrasses, and the coral reefs among others. The beach zone extends from the low water mark to the seaward edge of the coastal vegetation. In some cases the base of a cliff or a dune may mark the end of this highly changeable environment. The last component of the coastal zone is the adjoining coastal land. This zone extends landward for some distance from the end of the beach. The definition of how long this distance is may vary according to each country. As with all environmental systems, there are no clearly defined and universally accepted boundaries to the coastal zone. Where the land is flat, the coastal zone may extend for a considerable distance inland, and may consist of sand dunes, swamps or lagoons. Where the land is steep, the coastal zone may be very narrow. The definition also depends on aspects relating to the ease of management of the coastal zone. The narrower the area covered by coastal zone is considered to be, the easier it is to manage. The wider it is, the more complicated the environmental systems and the more numerous the agencies involved in the management process.

The three subsystems described here interact in many ways, and the boundaries between them fluctuate. The coastal zone is not an isolated system. Rivers and waterways may carry pollutants and sediments resulting from inland activities to the coast, where they have an impact on coastal zone habitats. Agricultural and forestry practices, for example, are known to bring increased sediments and chemicals to the marine environment, where they may degrade the health of the coral reefs. Water currents may carry pollutants from one country’s coastal zone to another’s. The coastal zone is a complex, highly productive environment, and the health of one ecosystem is intimately tied to the health of the other ecosystems in the area, and often to areas some distance away.


The coastal zone is a highly sensitive area, where a number of ecosystems exist in a state of balance. The coast is affected not only by local conditions but also by events and conditions long distances away. Pressures from human habitation and economic development are common in the coastal areas of the world. The management of such an area is of necessity an integrated and multidisciplinary effort.

Coastal zone management encompasses the concepts of integrated resource management and sustainable development. Integrated coastal management requires balancing a wide range of ecological, social, cultural, governance and economic considerations. An important concept is co-management, where local stakeholders share aspects of governance with the government, and community participation is an essential part of the management process. Active research and monitoring programs play a key role in providing sets of management options and potential consequences. With sustainable development, the needs of the human population can be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable development must not endanger the atmosphere, water, soil and the ecosystems that support life on earth. Any development process requires change. In the case of sustainable development, the use of resources, economic policies, technological development, population growth, and institutional structures are in harmony and enhance current and future potential for human progress.

Integrated coastal zone management was defined at an International Coastal Zone Workshop in 1989 as "a dynamic process in which a coordinated strategy is developed and implemented for the allocation of environmental, socio-cultural, and sustainable multiple uses of the coastal zone." (CAMPNET, 1989).

The key words and phrases in this definition can be expanded to make the definition more understandable:

"dynamic process" indicates the constantly changing nature of the coast. The process of coastal zone management must be flexible to accommodate these changes.

"coordinated strategy" is a plan or a program which may be spread amongst different groups or agencies working together.

"allocation of environmental, socio-cultural and institutional resources" refers to apportioning and balancing the various natural and human resources in the coastal zone.

"to achieve the conservation and sustainable multiple use of the coastal zone" refers to the need to preserve the coastal zone and to maintain and strengthen its many uses. (Cambers, 1992).

A strategy for integrated coastal zone management, though not yet fully implemented everywhere in the Wider Caribbean region, is the key for ensuring the survival and sustainable development of the coastal resources in the region.


The Wider Caribbean coastal zone contains many productive and biologically complex ecosystems. Nearshore marine habitats include coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves, coastal lagoons, beaches, and mud bottom communities. Of these, the coral reefs are the most visible and well researched. Their economic importance is partially tied to their value for fisheries and coastal tourism. The coastal ecosystems coexist through often complex and interdependent relationships, which are both physical and biological in nature. Coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves in particular have evolved to become dependent on each other for survival. An effective coastal zone management strategy will have to be based on an understanding of the local marine and coastal habitats and their interactions.

Coral reefs

Coral reefs are among the most important coastal resources in the Wider Caribbean, and are also among the most productive. Coral reefs occur along most shallow, tropical coastlines, where the water is clear and warm, and the salinity is constant. There are around seventy species of corals in the Wider Caribbean. The reefs formed by these tiny colonial animals belonging to the phylum Cnidaria, and the calcium carbonate skeletons that they secrete, are the basis of many coastal fisheries. Corals provide food, shelter and nursery areas for many fishes and crustaceans. Reefs protect coastal areas from storms and erosion by forming natural breakwaters. Much of the white sand found on beaches originated from coral skeletons, or from the skeletons of creatures and algae associated with the reef. There are several different types of reef structures. Of these, fringing reefs occur next to the shoreline, while barrier reefs are separated from the coast by a wide lagoon. The lagoon is formed over time by faster reef growth on the seaward side of the reef, where the detrimental influences of land are not evident. Patch reefs are isolated clusters of corals, commonly found in the lagoon inside the main reef structure. Atolls are circular or semicircular reefs growing around islands that may be in the process of subsiding. Much of the tourism in the Caribbean consists of divers and snorkellers who are drawn by the beauty of the reefs and the beaches.


Large seagrass meadows usually occur in the protected waters landward of coral reefs. Seagrasses are true flowering plants with male and female flowers capable of sexual reproduction, although most of the reproduction is performed asexually via the rhizome system in the sediment. The two main seagrass species, the turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) and the manatee grass (Syringodium filiforme), occur either in mixed or in monospecific beds. A few other species of seagrasses also exist in the Caribbean, but they are not as prevalent. Seagrass beds are productive environments. Grazers, such as green turtles, fishes, and sea urchins feed directly on the grasses. Seagrass blades provide surfaces for epiphytes like algae and invertebrates to attach on. Seagrass beds also serve as nursery grounds for the juveniles of many commercially important species, such as snappers, grunts, lobsters and conchs. Seagrasses help keep the water clear. The blades of the grasses act as baffles, inducing the settling of sediment particles, while the rhizome and root system stabilize the bottom, preventing the resuspencion of sediments. Clear water is an important requirement for the maintenance of healthy coral reefs.


Mangroves are found along the coasts of tropical and subtropical regions. The term mangrove refers to both the forest and the tree. The different mangrove species are not taxonomically related, but are grouped together because they can tolerate having their roots submerged in salt water. Their prop roots provide a surface of attachment for marine organisms in a muddy environment where hard surfaces are in short supply. Mangroves also trap and bind sediments and filter land based nutrients, promoting water clarity. Mangroves, like seagrasses, serve as nursery grounds for the juveniles of many commercially important fisheries species, while also providing habitat for a variety of small fishes, crabs and birds. Mangroves protect coasts against erosion by breaking storm waves and dampening tidal currents.

Estuaries, wetlands, watersheds and salinas

Coastal areas of the Wider Caribbean near major watersheds often contain large lagoons of fresh or brackish water. Estuaries, coastal lagoons, and other inshore marine waters are very fertile and productive ecosystems. They serve as important sources of organic material and nutrients, and also provide feeding, nesting and nursery areas for various birds and fishes. These ecosystems act as sinks of terrestrial run-off, trapping sediments and toxins, which may damage the fragile coral reefs.

Salinas are found on many dry Caribbean islands. They are shallow ponds and lakes with limited water circulation and tidal contact. Traditionally, salinas have been used as salt evaporators, but more modern uses include mariculture operations and marina constructions. They function as sediment traps, protecting coral reefs from excessive sediment loading.


The beach serves as a buffer zone between the land and the water. It is usually made up of unconsolidated sediments, such as sand, stones, coral rubble, and boulders. Beaches are dynamic environments, constantly changing as a result of natural processes, including storms, hurricanes, tidal changes, and sea level rise. Beaches also change as a result of man’s actions. Removing sand from the beach for construction, vegetation clearance, and building of seawalls are major problems in many areas of the Wider Caribbean. The major thrust of the Caribbean’s tourism industry is focused on this dynamic environment. Animals occupying this environment have adapted to the constant motion of the sand, gravel, or shell. Many important birds, reptiles, and other animals nest and breed on the berm and the open beach. Sea turtles use many beaches in the Wider Caribbean to dig their nests and deposit their eggs. The beach also provides habitat for a multitude of burrowing species, such as crabs, clams, and other invertebrates.

Mud bottoms

Mud bottoms support commercially important shrimp and groundfish fisheries, and are productive environments. Wide bands of relatively flat mud bottom are associated with the coasts of Central and South America. Mud bottom is also found in quiet bays and deeper basins, where fine sediments settle over time.


Coastal resources in the Wider Caribbean are under increasing impact from human activity. Some of the causes of this pressure are increasing population growth, development of coastal resources, agriculture, industrialization, and tourism. The overexploitation of fisheries stocks and degradation of critical habitats is also a major concern in many areas. The following section provides a summary of some of the main activities and sources of impact in the coastal areas of the Wider Caribbean.

Residence in the coastal zone

The majority of the population in the Wider Caribbean and worldwide lives on the coasts. The number and location of humans living in the coastal zone have profound effects upon marine and coastal ecosystems. Problems range from sewage and waste disposal to the clearance of mangroves and littoral forest for human habitation. There is also increased pressure on local fisheries and wildlife resources, increased erosion and siltation of coastal habitats, and increased susceptibility to floods, storms, and sea level rise. Ideally, integrated coastal zone management will meet the needs of the human population without damage to the environment.


Tourism is considered one of the world’s fastest growing industries. Most of the tourism in the Caribbean is concentrated in coastal areas. Tourism related development impacts on the coastal and marine environments by contributing to the problem of pollution and human sewage and waste disposal. Other detrimental effects include the destruction of mangroves for development, which in turn causes siltation of coastal waters. Oil leaks from boat engines, and physical damage to the reef and seagrass bottoms caused by divers, snorkellers, and boat anchors also have a negative effect. However, tourism is often a major contributor to the local economy, and is based on natural and cultural attractions and resources, where the use of those resources is renewable. Coastal tourism, and especially ecotourism, have the potential of becoming economic incentives to facilitate sustainable development and effective resource management in coastal areas of the Caribbean and elsewhere. A new but integral component to the subprogramme of the Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) on Specially Protected Areas and Wild Fauna and Flora (SPAW) is the on-going USAID/UNEP Caribbean Environment Network (CEN) Project on promotion of environmentally sound tourism in the Wider Caribbean Region.


The state of the fisheries is intimately linked to the health of the coastal ecosystems. A coral reef showing signs of degradation due to pollution will not support a healthy fishery. The clearance of mangroves removes important nursery areas of many commercially valuable species, which may consequently not survive to see adulthood. The main fisheries products throughout the Wider Caribbean are conch, lobster, reef and pelagic fishes, and invertebrates. There are more than 30 species of commercially important reef fishes throughout the Wider Caribbean. Sportfishing and recreational fishing are becoming important in many areas, often in connection with tourism. Unfortunately, the status of the major commercial fish stocks are, in many cases, not known with certainty because of a lack of historical, systematically collected data on catch and effort. The comprehensiveness of current data collection programs also varies from country to country. Because of this, definitive assessments of numbers and sustainable yields for the various Wider Caribbean fishery resources are not available, although stocks in general are thought to be seriously declining. Management techniques include closed seasons, size and catch limits, and area closures, all of which can have dramatic responses within a fishery. Enforcement of such practices remains a problem in traditionally unmanaged and essentially artisanal fisheries. Management plans and practices need to take into account local customs and traditional conservation methods.

Waste disposal, pollution and oil spills

Pollution is generally considered to include solid and liquid waste, garbage, sewage, industrial and domestic runoff, sediment, chemicals including fertilizers, pesticides and oil. The coastal zone is the ultimate depository of most pollutants, whether they originate from the land or from the sea. Of the land-based sources of pollution, eutrophication from human sewage disposal is a growing problem in the Wider Caribbean, particularly in the vicinity of large coastal cities and harbors. Increased nutrient loading from sewage stimulates algal growth and degrades coral reefs and seagrasses. Fisheries production may also decline, and bacteria in the sewage may pose a threat to human health. Other effects include loss of recreational swimming areas and damage to drinking water supplies. Activities outside of the coastal zone may also have a direct impact on the health of the coastal areas, for example when sedimentation and pollution from forestry and agriculture enter coastal areas via rivers and other waterways. Agricultural pesticides and fertilizers result in changes in the reef and seagrass communities, and may, in high concentrations, cause fish kills in areas of poor water circulation. Sedimentation from land clearance results in increased water turbidity, which in turn decreases the productivity of coral reefs and seagrasses. With high levels of sedimentation, physical smothering of corals, and benthic organisms by sediments and fine silt may take place.

Shipping can also be a source of pollution. The transport of potentially hazardous substances, such as oil, fertilizers and insecticides is always a hazardous activity, and there have been several oil spills within the Wider Caribbean region. While the local impact is immediate and obvious, there is little information and few quantified studies on the long-term effects of oil in the coastal zone. Corals do not die from oil remaining on the surface of the water. However, gas exchange between the water and the atmosphere is decreased, with the possible result of oxygen depletion in enclosed bays where surface wave action is minimal. Coral death does result from smothering when submerged oil directly adheres to coral surfaces, and oil slicks affect sea birds and other marine animals. Tar accumulation on beaches reduces tourism potential of coastal areas. With increased shipping activity in the Wider Caribbean, the dumping of garbage and washing of bilges at sea have become serious problems. Garbage dumped in international waters are driven by wind and currents to the shorelines of the Caribbean, causing persistent pollution, which threatens both the tourism and fishing industries, as well as the health of coastal communities. The AMEP (Marine Pollution and Integrated Environmental Management) Subprogramme of the Caribbean Environment Programme deals with the assessment and management of environmental pollution. Read in more detail about land based sources of marine pollution in our Environmental Issues in the Caribbean Section.

Land use practices

The major impact of development on land is excessive sedimentation. Shoreline construction, including harbors, groins, channels, and the removal of beach sand that often goes along with these activities, interferes with natural coastal sediment transport processes. An interruption in this "river of sand" can lead to serious beach erosion, the impacts of which are often seen on beaches downstream of the construction. Sedimentation may lead to the loss of benthic habitats, including coral reefs and seagrasses, and to the consequent decline of commercially important fisheries species. Mangrove clearance for housing and tourism development is a serious problem in many areas of the Caribbean. The clearance of mangroves results in the loss of nursery grounds for many important fisheries species, the destabilization and erosion of the shoreline, and the loss of a natural filtering system for land-based runoff. Beach sand mining is a destructive activity. Although no pollutants are introduced into the marine environment, the results are severe beach erosion and the adding sediment to the water column. The effects can be more widespread when the natural drift of sand along a shoreline is interfered with, and the beaches downstream of this drift will receive a reduced supply of sand.

Global warming and sea level rise

Based on available evidence, the global mean sea levels are thought to have risen by approximately 10-20cm during the last hundred years. The rise in sea level has not been uniform, and large variations exist between localities. Estimates of sea level rise due to current levels of greenhouse gas emissions (WMO-UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) predict an increase of 6 cm/decade (from a low estimate of 3 cm to a high estimate of 10 cm). This would mean an increase in sea level on the order of 20 cm by the year 2030, and approximately 65 cm by the year 2100. There is a lack of long term data on sea levels for the Wider Caribbean region, complicating estimates of future sea level rise. However, the UNEP Task Team of Experts for the Wider Caribbean concludes that a mean sea level rise of 10 cm by the year 2025 might be realistic, although this value should be accepted with some caution.

In conjunction with existing shoreline erosion in low-lying areas and island nations, potential effects of sea level rise can include

  • More severe and frequent storm damage and flooding
  • Inundation, erosion, and recession of barrier beaches and shoreline
  • Destruction and drowning of coral reefs and atolls
  • Disappearance or redistribution of wetlands and lowlands
  • Increased salinity of rivers, bays, and aquifers
  • Reduction in biological diversity and possible wildlife extinctions
  • Loss of beaches, low islands, and spits
  • Loss of coastal structures, both natural and man-made
  • Changes in the biophysical and biochemical properties of the coastal zone
  • Greater populations at risk from natural disasters in low lying areas and island nations

The extent to which any particular location may be vulnerable to sea level rise depends on such factors as the geological and geomorphological history and character of the area, elevation, ecology, level of human presence, and the value of resources likely to be impacted.


Aquaculture is a general term referring to the farming of any animal or plant that lives in the water. These organisms can range from unicellular algae to shrimp, clams, lobster, fish and crocodiles to name a few. Mariculture refers specifically to the culture of marine organisms. Aquaculture has generated worldwide interest recently. To some extent the reason for this may be the overexploitation of wild stocks combined with a growing international demand for fish and seafood products. There is a lot of potential for aquaculture in the Caribbean region, with its abundance of long coastlines with protected bays, relatively fertile brackish water estuaries, mangrove swamps, and other wetlands. The tropical climate favors year-round growth. The presence of edible or commercially valuable species of crustaceans, mollusks, fishes, seaweeds, etc. also favors the development of coastal aquaculture. However, aquaculture can cause potentially serious environmental impacts. These include the clearance of mangroves and other coastal vegetation for ponds, declining water quality caused by nutrient enrichment and oxygen depletion of outflowing water, and the introduction of non-native species, which may escape the aquacultural ponds and disrupt natural ecosystem functioning. While aquaculture has great potential for alleviating the pressure on wild stocks, some caution is necessary. Sites and species used in aquaculture should be selected for their suitability in order to minimize impact on the environment.


While national legislation varies from country to country, several international conventions and treaties are relevant to coastal zone management. Countries participating in these treaties accept certain obligations, but will also become the recipients of specific benefits. The benefits may include reciprocal access to information, access to technical and financial assistance, and wider enforcement of jurisdictional powers than the national law provides. Some of the key treaties and conventions relating to coastal zone management are listed below.

Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (The Cartagena Convention) and its Protocols

The Cartagena Convention entered into force in 1986 for the purposes of the protection and management of the marine and coastal areas of the Wider Caribbean Region. The Cartagena Convention and its Protocols constitutes an important legal instrument for regional cooperation in the Wider Caribbean. The UNEP Regional Co-ordinating unit is administering the convention. The convention has three associated protocols under development:

  1. The Oil Spills Protocol, which provides for regional co-operation when an oil spill threatens the coast of a participating state, and for the preparation and updating of contingency plans. This protocol is in force.
  2. The Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW), which provides for the protection and management of marine areas and associated terrestrial areas, as well as wildlife. This protocol is supported by a special subprogramme of the Caribbean Environment Programme called the SPAW Programme. The protocol is adopted but not in force.
  3. The LBSMP Protocol, which, though not yet finalized, is expected to become an instrument for dealing with environmental pollution reaching the marine environment from land-based sources. The Protocol is supported by a special subprogramme of the Caribbean Environment Programme called the Marine Pollution and Integrated Environmental Management Subprogramme (AMEP).

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

The 1983 convention came into force on 16 November 1994, and provides the basic framework for establishing maritime zones, and for regulating fishing, marine scientific research, and marine pollution within these zones.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

This convention operates by a means of a system of import and export permits, designed to protect certain threatened species from over-exploitation. It prohibits international commercial trade in species considered endangered and listed in Appendix I, but permits such trade in a regulated manner in species listed in Appendix II, that could become endangered through international trade.

Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL, 73/78)

This convention is administered by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and requires the contracting parties to impose a variety of controls on pollution from ships. The convention has five annexes covering oil, noxious liquids in bulk, harmful substances in packaged form, sewage and garbage.

Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar)

The Ramsar convention provides for increased protection of wetlands, including shallow coastal and marine areas. A state acceding to the convention is required to designate at least one significant wetlands site, which is subject to some form of sustainable management.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

The Climate Change Convention was concluded at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. It concentrates on controlling the emission of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane. The developed countries will provide provisions of funding and technology to the developing countries to reduce such emissions.

Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity was also concluded at UNCED. It requires states to adopt and carry out conservation policies to maintain biological diversity. For the Caribbean region, it has been recognized that the implementation of the SPAW Protocol of the Cartagena Convention would support the implementation of the majority of the obligations of the Convention on Biological Diversity. There is a special agreement between the CBD Secretariat and UNEP-CAR/RCU on implementing the CBD at a regional level.

Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention)

This treaty, established through UNESCO, allows contracting states to nominate sites within their territory to the World Heritage Committee for consideration for designation as natural and cultural sites of "outstanding universal value". Such designation entitles the country where the site is located to seek assistance from the World Heritage Fund for its protection.

Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn Convention)

The Bonn Convention was established to protect species of wild animals migrating across and outside national borders. This includes marine animals such as sea turtles and sea birds. Parties to the convention agree to restrict harvesting, conserve habitats, and control other adverse factors.

Western Central Atlantic Fisheries Commission (WECAFC)

This treaty is operated by the UN Food and Agriculture organization in Rome, and provides for fisheries research co-operation.

International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage

This convention makes provision for coastal states to allow actions to be brought in their national courts against the owners of vessels which spill oil at sea, resulting in damage to fishing or related interests, such as tourism.

International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage (the Fund Convention)

This convention establishes a fund to ensure that full compensation is payable to victims of oil pollution damage in cases where the Civil Liability Convention cannot provide a remedy.

Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matters (London Dumping Convention)

This convention was established to prevent indiscriminate disposal at sea of wastes liable to create hazards to human health or to harm living resources and marine life, to damage amenities, and to interfere with other legitimate uses of the sea.

Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous wastes and their Disposal (Basel Convention)

The purpose of this convention is to control and reduce transboundary movements of specified wastes, minimize the generation of hazardous wastes and assist developing countries in the environmentally sound management of such wastes.

UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks

This agreement sets out a precautionary approach to the management of living resources.


The successful management of marine resources requires a solid understanding of how ecosystems function. Incorporated in this understanding is knowledge of the distribution of habitats and of the species that inhabit them. The interaction of species with each other and their responses to the activities of man are of great importance for coastal resources management. It is difficult to conserve any particular resource in the absence of a comprehensive, integrated framework for policy, planning and management. Although coastal zone management programs are created to address broad resource systems, or ecosystems, they have to be based upon detailed knowledge of individual resource units. It could be said that the key to successful coastal zone management strategy is information. To enhance resource development capabilities, each country should acquire and maintain an inventory of its coastal environments and resources. This inventory should provide a balance between long-term goals, such as ecosystem preservation and immediate demands, such as tourism. An important part of resource management and inventory is the mapping of coastal zone habitats and resources using remote sensing technologies. The use of modern information technology, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), provides the resource manager with valuable tools for management and decision making. Access to e-mail and the Internet provide the means for networking both within the region and internationally, and access to important information. Viable research and monitoring programs ensure a continuos supply of data on the state of the coastal zone.

The implementation of a successful integrated coastal zone management strategy is dependent on a strong legal and institutional framework. The central agency should be government based, which may translate to a coastal zone management unit within the government department closest tied to coastal issues. There should be an established mechanism in place for coordinating coastal zone management. The cooperation within existing agencies and departments should be strong. Universities provide a valuable resource, especially as a vehicle for research and training. Universities can supply the government with trained personnel for monitoring coastal resources. Non governmental organizations and community based management initiatives can also make a valuable contribution. There is a need to ensure long term budgetary support for local agencies, so that personnel and programs are able to function in a stable environment, and continuity is guaranteed.

Coastal dependent industries, such as tourism and fisheries, rely on effective management of the coastal zone. A successful coastal zone management program comprises a number of components. Resource inventory information should form a basis for a comprehensive coastal zone management plan, which will outline the types of activities and uses appropriate to a given area. The establishment of marine protected areas is one important aspect of a coastal zone management plan. Any development on the terrestrial and water portion of the coastal zone should be planned for so that land-sea interactions and the implications of the development to marine areas are properly taken into account. Environmental Impact Assessments should be carried out for major developments. A management plan should also include measures for pollution control. Initially, an assessment on the status of pollutants, both on the organism and ecosystem levels should be made, and a monitoring program set up. Measures to alleviate pollution in problem areas should be taken. Implementation of such a plan requires a legislative component, especially when it involves restrictions to current activities, such as fishing or the clearance of mangroves. The legislation, in turn, requires adequate enforcement so that compliance is ensured.

Public education and the involvement of coastal communities are important components of coastal zone management. Co-management may be appropriate in some cases. Education programs can be used to communicate resource knowledge on many levels, from children to local communities, fishermen and visitors. The enforcement of legislation is made a lot easier when the support of the local communities and resource users is gained through education and communication. Regular networking within the region on this and other aspects of coastal zone management is important. In the end, the goal of sustainable development in the Wider Caribbean Region can only be achieved through the implementation of an effective integrated coastal zone management strategy.


Find our more about CEP Technical reports on issues relevant to coastal zone management.


These sites are in no particular order. If you know of a site you think should be included in this list, please e-mail your suggestions to


Island Resources Foundation

This site contains a variety of environmental information about the Wider Caribbean region. There is a list of bibliography sources relevant to coastal zone management in the Caribbean, a list of environmental references, and a list of Caribbean Marine Parks and Protected Areas. There is also information on coastal tourism, GIS and a variety of other environmental issues.

Millersville University Caribbean Coastal Studies Homepage

This site, maintained by Millersville University, has information about Marine and Protected areas of the Caribbean Islands, environmental hazards and emergency management, a paper on Integrated Coastal Area Management and Public Perceptions in the Caribbean Islands, as well as news items on a variety of environmental issues in the Caribbean.

Caribbean Environment and Sustainable Development Homepage

This site is a joint initiative of the Antigua and Barbados Ministries of Environment. It contains directories of some Caribbean organizations and networks, donors and development agencies, events and meetings. Included are also selected Caribbean themes including coastal zones, fisheries, marine resources and waste management.



UNESCO Coastal Regions and Small Islands

This site contains news, publications, and activities relevant to the environment and development of coastal regions and small islands. The databases can be searched either by region or by theme. There is information and program updates on Caribbean Islands in subjects ranging from beach erosion to hurricane impact and other environmental issues.

NOAA Office of Ocean and Coastal Resources management, Coastal Zone Management Program

This site gives an overview of U.S. Coastal Zone Management by state. It Provides some interesting information about marine sanctuaries and Estuarine and Research Reserves, as well as program aims and information about the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972.

Coastal Management Centre, Netherlands

This excellent site, developed by the Dutch Coastal Zone Management Centre, is intended to be used as a resource by anyone involved in coastal zone management. There is a coastal zone management tutorial on coastal processes and typologies, and interesting coastal zone related models and programs, some of which can be downloaded. Of special interest are an island model, demonstrating integrated modeling of socio-environmental systems, and a coastal zone management simulation to evaluate coastal zone management plans. There is also a model on coastal zone biodiversity, a search for information capability, maps and atlases about sea level rise and global vulnerability assessment, among many other interesting and informative features.

Coastal Resources Center, University of Rhode Island

The University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center focuses on worldwide coastal management. The site contains a description of the programs, a newsletter, and a wealth of publications relating to education and training in coastal zone management. Described are also interesting case studies from countries around the world. A searchable database of coastal management information worldwide is available, and includes useful information about the state of coastal zone management in many Caribbean countries.

Center for Excellence in Coastal Resources Management, Silliman University, Philippines

Silliman University in the Philippines concentrates on teaching community based resource management. The site describes the programs and facilities available. There is also an on-line newsletter discussing interesting coastal zone management issues, and regional news stories related to the coastal zone.

ICLARM (International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management)

ICLARM is located in the Philippines, but its work is worldwide. The site contains information on ICLARM’s research programs, especially in fisheries, biodiversity management, and aquaculture. Of special interest to the Caribbean is the Caribbean Marine Protected Areas Project. News, publications and software information is also available.

FAO Fisheries Department

This site contains some items of interest to coastal zone management, especially the sections on worldwide fisheries and sustainable development. There is also information on international agreements, databases, statistics, and FAO publications.

WWF Water Links

This extensive World Wildlife Fund site has tools to search for available environmental information by keyword or by concept. There are also sections on climate change and endangered seas, as well as news items.


This site has information about the United Nations Environment Programme, including lists of publications and information about international conventions and programs. There is also a search tool for looking for specific information.

IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)

The site contains program information, a database of publications, and a periodicals database, among other items of interest.

The Coastal Engineering Page

This site contains interesting information about nearshore processes, coastal engineering, tsunamis, tides, and other coastal issues. A list of reference materials is also available.

World Conservation Monitoring Centre

This site contains searchable conservation databases by country. Included is information about marine and fisheries statistics, maps of coral reef and mangrove areas, and information about protected areas. There is information about many of the Caribbean countries. A new site on coral reefs and mangroves of the world provides information and distribution maps on the subject. Information about international conventions and programs, and conservation information services are also available.


Hawai’i Coastal Zone management Program

Maintained by the Hawaii Office of Planning, this site contains the Hawaii Coastal Zone Management Plan. The issues addressed here are also of importance to the Caribbean.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

This site is maintained by the Australian Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The site has information about management issues on the Great Barrier Reef, including tourism, fishing and boating. There is also a link to library services, and an on-line newsletter.

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

This site provides information about sanctuary updates, and the management plan, including regulations, zoning, visitor information, resource protection, education and research.


Coastal Management Web

This extensive clearinghouse site houses links to global coastal management web sites by subject and organization. Included are also lists of newsgroups, electronic newsletters, databases, publishers and journals, professional organizations and discussion groups.

Coral Reef, Mangrove, Seagrass and Coastal Zone Management Web sites

This site was compiled by Alasdair Edwards from the Centre for Tropical Coastal Management Studies, University of Newcastle. Included are interesting links to information about the main tropical marine ecosystems, and coastal zone management.



Cambers, G. (1992) Coastal Zone Management: Case Studies from the Caribbean. Latin America and the Caribbean Technical Department, Regional Studies Program, Report No. 26.

CAMPNET (1989) The Status of Integrated Coastal Zone Management: A Global Assessment. Summary Report of the Workshop convened at Charleston, South Carolina, July 4-9. Coastal Area Management and Planning Network, Rosenstiel School of Marine Science, University of Miami.

Clark, J.R. (1988)Program Development for Management of Coastal Resources. Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami. Coastal Management Publication No.4.

Nurse, L.A.(1992)Predicted Sea-Level Rise in the Wider Caribbean:Likely Consequences and Response Options. In: Semi-Enclosed Seas, exchange of ideas between Mediterranean and Caribbean Countries. Elsevier Applied Science, London and New York.

Coastal Zone Management Programme Government of Belize and UNDP (1995) State of the Coastal Zone Report, Belize, 1995.

UNEP Technical Reoport No.20 (1993)Environmental Problems Affecting the Marine and Coastal Environment in the Wider Caribbean region.

USAID and NOAA (1987) Caribbean Marine Resources: Opportunitites for Economic Development and Management.

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