integrated coastal management

Integrating the needs of coastal ecosystems, humans and natural processes can result in a successful MPA Network plan. Photo © S. Wear/TNC

Coral reefs often occur within the complex and highly interconnected coastal zone. Activities within the coastal zone, including urban development, agriculture and river management, can be major influences on the health of coral reefs. Effective management of coral reefs, therefore, requires managers to understand and influence the activities that occur within the coastal zone.

Integrated coastal management (ICM), also termed integrated coastal zone management (ICZM), is a process of governance that can help coral reef managers ensure development and management plans for the coastal zone incorporate environmental and social goals relating to coral reefs. ICM provides a legal and institutional framework that aims to support efforts to maximize the benefits provided by the coastal zone, including coral reefs, while minimizing conflicts and harmful effects of activities upon each other, on resources and on the environment.1 Key features of ICM processes are that they involve active participation by those affected by coastal zone management and planning decisions, and that they are inter-disciplinary and inter-sectorial.

ICM is often achieved through spatial planning approaches, and in this regard it can have much in common with marine spatial planning. ICM can also include areas of watersheds (river catchments), and therefore can overlap with watershed or ‘ridge-to-reef’ management. Generally, however, ICM is practically limited to the habitats and landforms readily recognized as ‘the coast’, with spatial definitions often aligning with administrative or jurisdictional boundaries.

Strategies for an ICM approach to protecting coral reefs include:

  1. Determine whether traditional principles or resource management measures exist and whether their appropriate implementation could enhance coastal resource management.
  2. Engage local communities to extract anecdotal and traditional knowledge, to involve local stakeholders in policy planning and implementation, and to create local support for coastal management policies.
  3. Inventory coastal environments, resources, and programs to learn about, improve the health, and better manage the coastal environment.
  4. Determine short-term and long-term goals that call for coastal development consistent with the preservation of the environment and create a strategy for coastal zone management.
  5. Create and enforce a strong legal and institutional framework, including economic incentives to reinforce desired behaviors and outcomes.
  6. Develop a strong coastal management constituency and partnerships at the local, regional and national levels.
  7. Establish Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), including no-take reserves, to protect, preserve and sustainably manage species and ecosystems of special value (this includes threatened species and habitats).
  8. Perform Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) of all development projects in the terrestrial and aquatic sections of the coastal zone.
  9. Assess and monitor pollutants in the water column and make a plan for pollution control.


Coral Reef Alliance Sustainable Coastal Development (pdf, 1.6M)

World Bank Guidance on ICM

European Commission website on Integrated Coastal Zone Management

Return to Top

Last updated January 26, 2018

Translate »