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Integrated coastal zone management

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Integrated coastal zone management

Integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) or Integrated coastal management (ICM) is a process for the management of the coast using an integrated approach, regarding all aspects of the coastal zone, including geographical and political boundaries, in an attempt to achieve sustainability.

This concept was born in 1992 during the Earth Summit of Rio de Janeiro. The specifics regarding ICZM is set out in the proceedings of the summit within Agenda 21, Chapter 17.

The European Commission defines the ICZM as follows:-

ICZM is a dynamic, multidisciplinary and iterative process to promote sustainable management of coastal zones. It covers the full cycle of information collection, planning (in its broadest sense), decision making, management and monitoring of implementation. ICZM uses the informed participation and cooperation of all stakeholders to assess the societal goals in a given coastal area, and to take actions towards meeting these objectives. ICZM seeks, over the long-term, to balance environmental, economic, social, cultural and recreational objectives, all within the limits set by natural dynamics. 'Integrated' in ICZM refers to the integration of objectives and also to the integration of the many instruments needed to meet these objectives. It means integration of all relevant policy areas, sectors, and levels of administration. It means integration of the terrestrial and marine components of the target territory, in both time and space.

To further understand the idea of ICZM several aspects can be defined and further explained. The coastal zone, the concept of sustainability and the term integration all within a coastal management context can be individually defined, while the expectations and framework of ICZM can be further explained. This entry uses the example of the New Zealand national framework to illustrate ICZM.

Defining the Coastal Zone

Defining the Coastal zone is of particular importance to the idea of ICZM. But the fuzziness of borders due to the dynamic nature of the coast makes it difficult to clearly define. Most simply the coast can be thought of as an area of interaction between the land and the ocean. Ketchum (1972)[1] defined the area as:

The band of dry land and adjacent ocean space (water and submerged land) in which terrestrial processes and land uses directly affect oceanic processes and uses, and vice versa.

Issues arise with the diversity of features present on the coast and the spatial scales of the interacting systems. Coasts being dynamic in nature are influenced differently all around the world. Influences such as river systems, may reach far inland increasing the complexity and scale of the zone. These issues make it difficult to clearly identify hinterlands and subscribe any subsequent management.

Whilst acknowledging a physical coastal zone, the inclusion of ecosystems, resources and human activity within the zone is important. It is the human activities that warrant management. These activities are responsible for disrupting the natural coastal systems. To add to the complexity of this zone, administrative boundaries use arbitrary lines that dissect the zone, often leading to fragmented management. This sectored approach focuses on specific activities such as land use and fisheries, often leading to adverse effects in another sector.

The importance of the Coastal Zone and the need for management

The dynamic processes that occur within the coastal zones produce diverse and productive ecosystems which have been of great importance historically for human populations.[2] Coastal margins equate to only 8% of the worlds surface area but provide 25% of global productivity. Stress on this environment comes with approximately 70% of the world’s population being within a day’s walk of the coast.[3] Two-thirds of the world’s cities occur on the coast.[4]

Valuable resources such as fish and minerals are considered to be common property and are in high demand for coastal dwellers for subsistence use, recreation and economic development.[5] Through the perception of common property, these resources have been subjected to intensive and specific exploitation. For example; 90% of the world’s fish harvest comes from within national exclusive economic zones, most of which are within the sight of shore.[3] This type of practice has led to a problem that has cumulative effects. The addition of other activities adds to the strain placed on this environment. As a whole, human activity in the coastal zone generally degrades the systems by taking unsustainable quantities of resources. The effects are further exacerbated with the input of pollutant wastes. This provides the need for management. Due to the complex nature of human activity in this zone a holistic approach is required to obtain a sustainable outcome.

The concept of sustainability

The concept behind the idea of ICZM is sustainability. For ICZM to succeed, it must be sustainable. Sustainability entails a continuous process of decision making, so there is never an end-state just a readjustment of the equilibrium between development and the protection of the environment.[6] The concept of Sustainability or sustainable development came to fruition in the 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future. It stated sustainable development is “to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.[7]

Highlighted are three main standpoints which summarise the idea of Sustainable development, they are:

  • Economic development to improve the quality of life of people
  • Environmentally appropriate development
  • Equitable development[6]

To simplify these points, sustainability should acknowledge the right of humans to live a life that is healthy and productive. It should allow for equal distribution of benefits to all people and in doing so protect the environment through appropriate use.[6]

Sustainability is by no means a set of prescriptive actions, more accurately it is a way of thinking. Adapting this way of thinking paves the way for a longer-term view with a more holistic approach, something successful ICZM can achieve.[8]

Expectations of ICZM

As previously stated, for ICZM to be successful it must adhere to the principles that define sustainability and act upon them in ways that are integrated. An optimal balance between environmental protection and the development of economic and social sectors is paramount.[9] As part of the holistic approach ICZM applies, many aspects within a coastal zone are expected to be considered and accounted for. These include but are not limited to: the spatial, functional, legal, policy, knowledge, and participation dimensions.[10] Below are four identified goals of ICZM:

  • Maintaining the functional integrity of the coastal resource systems;
  • Reducing resource-use conflicts;
  • Maintaining the health of the environment;
  • Facilitating the progress of multisectoral development[11]

Failure to include these aspects and goals would lead to a form of unsustainable management, undermining the paradigms explicit to ICZM.

Defining Integration

The term ‘integration’ can be adopted for many different purposes, it is therefore quite important to define the term in the context of the management of the coastal zone to appreciate the intentions of ICZM. Integration within ICZM occurs in and between many different levels, 5 types of integration that occur within ICZM,[6] are explained below;

Integration among sectors: Within the coastal environment there are many sectors that operate. These human activities are largely economic activities such as tourism, fisheries, and port companies. A sense of co-operation between sectors is the main requirement for sector integration within ICZM. This comes from the realisation of a common goal focused around sustainability and the appreciation of one another within the area.

Integration between land and water elements of the coastal zone: This is the realisation of the physical environment being a whole. The coastal environment is a dynamic relationship between many processes all of which are interdependent. The link must be made between imposing a change on one system or feature and its inevitable ‘flow on’ effects.

Integration among levels of government: Between levels of governance, consistency and co-operation is needed throughout planning and policy making. ICZM is most effective where initiatives have common purpose at local, regional, and national levels. Common goals and actions increase efficiency and mitigate confusion.

Integration between nations: This sees ICZM as an important tool on a global scale. If goals and beliefs are common on a supranational scale, large scale problems could be mitigated or avoided.

Integration among disciplines: Throughout ICZM, knowledge should be accepted from all disciplines. All means of scientific, cultural, traditional, political and local expertise need to be accounted for. By including all these elements a truly holistic approach towards management can be achieved.

The term integration in a coastal management context has many horizontal and vertical aspects, which reflects the complexity of the task and it proves a challenge to implement.

ICZM Framework

Management must embrace a holistic viewpoint of the functions that makeup the complex and dynamic nature of interactions in the coastal environment.[12] Management framework must be applied to a defined geographical limit (often complicated) and should operate with a high level of integration.[11] Due to the diverse nature of the world’s coastline and coastal environments, it is not possible to create a framework that is ‘one-size-fits-all.’ Different activities, interests and issues also complicate matters. So management will always be unique to countries, regions and ultimately on a local scale.

A common thought process and decision making framework however, can be fairly uniform as a part of ICZM around the world. To achieve the principles set out in sustainable types of management a step by step process can be adhered to.

Firstly, issues and problems need to be identified and assessments of these need to be quantified. This first step will include integration between government, sectoral entities and local residents. The assessments also have to be broad in their application. Once the issues and problems have been identified and weighted, an effective management plan can be made. The plan will be specific to the area in question. Thirdly, the adoption of the plan can be carried out. They can be legally binding statutory plans, strategies or objectives which are generally quite powerful or they can be non-statutory processes and can act as a guide for future development.[8] This duality is largely beneficial as the future can be taken into account, but still provide for a firm stance based in the present.[2] The fourth step is implementation, this active phase includes; law enforcement, education, development etc. The implementation activities will be of course, be as unique as their environments and can take many forms. The last phase is evaluation of the whole process. The principles of sustainability mean that there is no ‘end state.’ ICZM is an ongoing process which should constantly readjust the equilibrium between economic development and the protection of the environment. Feedback is a crucial part of the process and allows for continued effectiveness even when a situation may change. Public participation and stakeholder involvement is essential in ICZM processes, not only in terms of a democratic approach, but also from a technical–instrumental point of view, in order to reduce decisional conflicts (Ioppolo et al., 2013). [13]

ICZM in the Mediterranean

At the Conference of the Plenipotentiaries on the ICZM Protocol that took place on 20–21 January 2008 in Madrid, the ICZM Protocol was signed. Under the presidency of the Minister of Environment of Spain, H.E. Ms. Cristina Narbona Ruiz, fourteen Contracting Parties of the Barcelona Convention signed the Protocol. These are the following: Algeria, Croatia, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Slovenia, Spain, Syria and Tunisia. All other Parties announced to do so in the very near future. This is the 7th Protocol in the framework of the Barcelona Convention, and the decision to approve the draft text and recommendation to the Conference of the Plenipotentiaries to sign it was taken at the 15th Ordinary Meeting of the Contracting Parties during their meeting in Almeria, on 15–18 January 2008. All the parties are convinced that this Protocol is a crucial milestone in the history of MAP(UNEP/MAP). It will allow the countries to better manage their coastal zones, as well as to deal with the emerging coastal environmental challenges, such as the climate change.

The ICZM Protocol is a unique legal instrument in the entire international community and the Mediterranean countries are proud of this fact. They are willing to share these experiences with other coastal countries of the world. The signing of the Protocol came after six years of dedicated work of all the Parties.

In September 2012, Croatia and Morocco ratified the Protocol, which brings the number of ratifications to 9 (Slovenia, Montenegro, Albania, Spain, France, European Union, Syria, Croatia, Morocco).

A road-map for the implementation of the ICZM Process, prepared by the Priority Action Programme (PAP/RAC) is available on the Coastal Wiki platform of the PEGASO and ENCORA projects: ICZM Process.

Constraints of ICZM

Major constraints of ICZM are mostly institutional, rather than technological.[10] The ‘top-down’ approach of administrative decision making sees problematisation as a tool promoting ICZM through the idea of sustainability.[10] Community-based ‘bottom-up’ approaches can perceive problems and issues that are specific to a local area. The benefit of this is that the problems are real and acknowledged rather than searched for to fit an imposed strategy or policy. Public consultation and involvement is very important for current ‘top-down’ approaches, as it can incorporate this ‘bottom-up’ idea into the policies made. Prescriptive ‘top-down’ methods have not able to effectively address problems of resource utilization in poor coastal communities as perceptions of the coastal zone differ with regard to developed and developing countries.[10] This leads on to another constraint to ICZM, the idea of common property.

The coastal environment has huge historical and cultural connections with human activity. Its wealth of resources have provided for millennia, with regard to ICZM how does management become legally binding if the dominant perception of the coast is of a common area available to all? And should it?[3] Enforcing restrictions or change to activities within the coastal zone can be difficult as these resources are often very important to people’s livelihoods. The idea of the coast being common property fouls ‘top-down’ approaches. The idea of common property itself is not all that clean, This perception can lead to cumulative exploitation of resources – the very problem this management seeks to extinguish.

ICZM: The New Zealand case study

New Zealand is quite unique as it uses sustainable management within legislation, with a high level of importance placed on to the coastal environment.[2] The Resource Management Act (RMA) (1991) promoted sustainable development and mandated the preparation of a New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (NZCPS), a national framework for coastal planning. It is the only national policy statement that was mandatory.[14] All subsequent planning must not be inconsistent with the NZCPS, making it a very important document.[2] Regional authorities are required to produce Regional coastal policy plans under the RMA (1991) but strangely enough, they only need to include the marine environment seaward of the mean high water mark. But many regional councils have chosen to integrate the ‘dry’ landward area within their plans, breaking down the artificial barriers.[2] This attempt at ICZM is still in its early days running into many legislative hurdles and is yet to achieve a fully ecosystems-based approach. But as part of ICZM, evaluation and adoption of changes is important and ongoing changes to the NZCPS in the form of reviews is currently happening.[14] This will provide an excellent stepping stone for future initiatives and the development of a fully integrated form of coastal management.

ICZM: The Iran case study

Preparation of comprehensive management plans for optimum utilization of existent sources and potentials in all developed and developing countries is one of the appropriate approaches for constant and permanent utilization of natural, human and financial sources. The versatility of natural sources in coastal areas has made private and governmental users and investors to participate in this section to gain the utmost profits. Therefore, the necessity of preparation and implementation of management plans for perpetual utilization of existent sources in coastal areas has become inevitable. Iran, possessing some 6000 km of coastline in north and south, owns abundant economic capacities in coastal zones and regarding the versatility of nature and coast operators and management of coastal activities and operations, necessity of attention to Integrated Coastal Zone Management becomes more significant. Such necessity has gained its legal support through ratification of arrangements no. 40 from transportation chapter of third and article no. 63 of fourth economic, social and cultural economic schedule and its executive regulations. The General Director of coasts and ports engineering of Ports and Maritime Organization was detailed to take the studies of ICZM into consideration. The first phase of these studies began in spring 2003 and was fulfilled in autumn 2006. The outcome of this phase was compilation of following reports accomplished by several national and international skilled consultants: 1- Project Methodology 2- Scrutinized scope of services related to studies 3- Investigation of studies' needs and project preparation and performance 4- Study, definition and determination of Iranian coastal zones boundaries 6- Investigation of International concepts, methods and experiences about Integrated Coastal Zone Management 7- Study and investigation of different features of Integrated Coastal Zone Management in Iran 8- Preparation and designation of geographic database 9- Purchasing and preparing basic data The second phase of studies started up in autumn 2005 and since then this phase has been fully accomplished and presented, In which six competent Iranian consultants with some cooperation of international consultants are responsible for preparing the eleven results of second part of the studies.[15]

The European Union

The European Parliament and the European Council "adopted in 2002 a Recommendation on Integrated Coastal Zone Management which defines the principles sound coastal planning and management. These include the need to base planning on sound and shared knowledge, the need to take a long-term and cross-sector perspective, to pro-actively involve stakeholders and the need to take into account both the terrestrial and the marine components of the coastal zone".[16]


The Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) appears to be a key element for the sustainable development of these zones. However this recent notion may not be adapted to all cases.[17] The natural disasters Sumatra earthquake and the Indian Ocean tsunami have made a lot of impact on the coastal environment and also the stakeholder's perception on mitigation and management of coastal hazards.[18] Successful implementation is still a major challenge to the idea of ICZM .

See also


  1. ^ KETCHUM, B. H. 1972. The water's edge: critical problems of the coastal zone. In: Coastal Zone Workshop, 22 May-3 June 1972 Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  2. ^ a b c d e KAY, R. & ALDER, J. 1999. Coastal Planning and Management, London, E & FN Spon.
  3. ^ a b c BROWN, K., TOMPKINS, E. L. & ADGER, N. 2002. Making Waves: Integrating coastal conservation and development, London, Earthscan Publications Limited.
  4. ^ CROOKS, S. & TURNER, R. K. 1999. Integrated coastal management: sustaining estuarine natural resources. Advances in Ecological Research, 29, 241-289.
  5. ^ BERKES, F. 1989. Common property resources: Ecology and community-based sustainable development, London.
  6. ^ a b c d CICIN-SAIN, B. 1993. Sustainable Development and Integrated Coastal Management. Ocean and Coastal Management, 21, 11-43.
  7. ^ WORLD, COMMISSION, ON, ENVIRONMENT, AND & DEVELOPMENT 1987. Towards Sustainable future, "Our common future". New York: Oxford University Press.
  8. ^ CICIN-SAIN, B. & KNECHT, R. 1998. Integrated coastal and ocean management: concepts and practices. Washington D.C.: Island Press.
  9. ^ a b c d IDRUS, M. R. 2009. Hard Habits to Break: Investigating Coastal Resource Utilisations and Management Systems in Sulawesi, Indonesia Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Science, University of Canterbury.
  10. ^ a b THIA-ENG, C. 1993. Essential Elements of Integrated Coastal Zone Management. Ocean and Coastal Management, 21, 81-108.
  11. ^ WILLIAMS, A. & MICALLEF, A. 2009. Beach Management: Principles and Practice, London, Earthscan Publications Limited.
  12. ^ .Ioppolo G.,Saija G.,Salomone R. 2013. From coastal management to environmental management: The sustainable eco-tourism program for the mid-western coast of Sardinia (Italy). Land Use Policy (31), 460-471.
  13. ^ a b PEART, R. 2007. Beyond the Tide: Integrating the management of New Zealand's coasts, Auckland, Environmental Defence Society
  14. ^ Portal of the Iran ICZM
  15. ^
  16. ^ (2)1 S.A.P.I.EN.S.Billé, R. (2008) “Integrated Coastal Zone Management: four entrenched illusions”.
  17. ^ Kurt Fedra. 2008. Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM). Singapore: Research Publishing Services.

External links

  • European Commission Coastal Zone Policy
  • ENCORA Coastal WIKI -EU Coordination Action on ICZM
  • Overview ICZM courses in Europe
  • Examining Best Practices in Coastal Zone Planning Lessons and Applications for British Columbia's Central Coast
  • Coastal Zone Management Policy and Politics Class
  • Safecoast Knowledge exchange on coastal flooding and climate change in the North Sea region
  • ICZM principles
  • ZonaCostera | KüstenZone | CoastalZone | FrangeCôtière | KustStrook: Wiki in development with relevant and on-time information, useful for the integrated management of the coastal zones of our world. Integrated development is everybody's business!
  • EUCC Marine Team: ICZM in Europe
  • Coastal Zone Management Unit in Barbados
  • Integrated Coastal Zone Management in Iran
  • Free Educational Videos about Coastal Policy and Zone Management
  • The Future of Coastal Policy textbook overview
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