Activities pursued in coastal regions by various sectors like agriculture, fisheries, industry, tourism and construction sectors, produce damaging impacts on coastal ecosystems. These long-term effects may include the loss of biodiversity and natural resources for future generations. In many countries, major cities and industries are located along the coast and are increasingly causing environmental degradation through pollution, excessive water consumption, land misuse, beach erosion and inadequate waste disposal methods. For example, the conversion of mangrove and sea grass areas into aquaculture ponds destroys critical ecosystems that nurture juvenile fish and filtrate sediments. Further, illegal logging and mining cause soil erosion and contaminate rivers and seas. The harvesting of banned species and illegal fishing practices like blast fishing or the intrusion of commercial fishing vessels into municipal waters denies local fishermen of food and income and depletes natural resources and biodiversity.
Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) is a holistic management approach, based on the "ecosystem concept", that integrates the protection of marine areas with the various activities pursued in the coastal zone [1]. There are only a few international agreements that tangentially refer to ICZM, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Due to the lack of binding and specifically applicable international instruments, the political will of countries plays a decisive role in applying the ICZM approach, not least the commitment to Agenda 21 which specifies the objectives and implementation of ICZM.
ICZM requires multi-stakeholder participation and the establishment of appropriate legislative and institutional measures to prevent, control and reduce the impacts of human activities on coastal areas. UNITAR’s workshops have provided a framework for the exchange of information on best practices among stakeholders, especially in the Mediterranean region.
[1] Gündling, L. (2006), International Environmental Law: Marine Environment, Polar Regions, Outer Space, 2nd edition, UNITAR, Geneva, Switzerland.