Archive for the 'Environmental policy' Category

Microplastic pollution – a serious threat to marine ecosystems

Text and photos copyright (c) 2013 Erkki “Eric” Siirila, all rights reserved

Pioneering research has shown that plastic waste entering the ocean may have more serious negative effects on marine life than what was previously thought. Two studies published in Current Biology focus on the ecosystem effects of microplastic fragments less than 1 mm in diameter. The very small pieces of plastic have been polluting the ocean for about half a century.

Previous research has concentrated on the effects of bigger plastic objects in the marine ecosystem. This time the focus is on the fragments, which are produced for example as a result of gradual breakdown of plastic bottles in nature.

The tiny plastic particles are so small that wastewater treatment plants cannot stop them from entering the sea. A serious challenge for waste management is that this pollution does not originate only in what we normally consider plastic. The sources include synthetic textiles e.g. polyester – many of our clothes release a high number of microscopic pieces of plastic fibre when they are washed. Microbeads from cosmetic facial scrubs are one more source of harmful plastic particles. On the shores and in the sea, the microscopic plastic waste sinks into the sediments in high concentrations.

An additional problem with microplastics is that, in addition to the direct effects, they transfer harmful chemicals to marine organisms eating them. This was shown to take place in the case of lugworms by Mark Browne and his colleagues (link to Abstract). Lugworms (Wikipedia Lugworm) are an example of a common North Atlantic species using the sediments as food source. Starfish and sea cucumbers have similar feeding strategies. Mark Browne’s work was completed at Plymouth University, UK.

Plastic waste entering the Atlantic via Rio de la Plata (River Plate), Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Plastic waste entering the Atlantic via Rio de la Plata (River Plate), Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The harmful substances within the microplastics include antimicrobials, hydrocarbons and flame retardants, which are often persistent and may reduce health and biodiversity. Furthermore, minute plastic particles concentrate substances from the surrounding water on their surface: to name two examples, detergents and pesticides can be detected. The chemicals may be carried over to the next predators in the food chain – lugworms are eaten by flounders and wading birds. The harmful substances could also accumulate in the top predators, perhaps even in us humans. If lugworms are seriously affected, as they are, the whole food chain could be subject to significant adverse effects.

In the study by Stephanie Wright, University of Exeter, UK, and her colleagues, it was found that those lugworms which (in laboratory tanks) were subject to varying levels of plastic contamination, gained less weight than the worms in a clean environment. Consequently, the worms suffering from the consequences of plastic pollution had less energy for growth and reproduction. The worms were also likely to be less efficient in their important ecosystem service, i.e. in eating and keeping the sediments healthy and oxygenated for other animals. The article by Wright et al. is here: .

When interviewed by the BBC, Dr Browne summarised his earlier findings relating to 18 sediment samples from the beaches in several countries: “We found that there was no sample from around the world that did not contain pieces of microplastic.”

Based on these two ground-breaking articles in Current Biology, there seems to be an urgent need to develop the use practices and waste management techniques of plastic products in our societies. This is an important coastal and marine conservation issue.

In addition to the material published in Current Biology, summaries published by the British BBC and The Guardian, were helpful in the preparation of this Coastal Challenges’ article.


Ocean state alarming – policy changes are needed

Text and photos (c) 2013 Erkki “Eric” Siirila, copyright & all rights reserved. 

Urgent measures are needed to stop ocean degradation related to climate change. The speed and negative effects are greater and more clearly felt that previously thought. These are the most important conclusions of recent work by an international marine scientist panel.

The results of the latest wide-ranging international review were made public by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) at the beginning of October 2013. Behind the work were the experts of IUCN and International Programme of the State of the Ocean (IPSO). The outcomes have also been published in the scientific journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.

Evening in the South Atlantic.

Evening in the South Atlantic.

An IUCN press release highlights the contents by telling us the following preoccupying facts: The ocean is absorbing much of the global warming. Unforeseen levels of carbon dioxide are bound by the ocean. The cumulative impact of this, together with other ocean stressors, is much more threatening than past estimates.

The other contributing stressors include decreasing oxygen levels in the sea and runoff of nitrogen from land. Also chemical pollution and serious overfishing are hampering the ocean’s capacity to act as a balancing factor in what is called “carbon preturbations”.

A comment by Professor Alex Rogers of Somerville College, Oxford (also Scientific Director of IPSO) is cited in the IUCN summary paper: “The health of the ocean is spiraling downwards far more rapidly than we had thought. We are seeing greater change, happening faster, and the effects are more imminent than previously anticipated. The situation should be of the gravest concern to everyone since everyone will be affected by changes in the ability of the ocean to support life on Earth.”

Professor Dan Laffoley, from IUCN, commented the new interdisciplinary findings by saying: “What these latest reports make absolutely clear is that deferring action will increase costs in the future and lead to even greater, perhaps irreversible, losses. The UN climate report confirmed that the ocean is bearing the brunt of human-induced changes to our planet. These findings give us more cause for alarm – but also a roadmap for action. We must use it.“

Dead fish on the beach of Bombinhas, Brazil.

Dead fish on the beach of Bombinhas, Brazil.

More in depth, the foreseen challenges and problems include the following:

Oxygen levels in the ocean are expected to decline between 1% and 7% by 2100.  Tropical  oceans and and the North Pacific have had a trend of decreasing oxygen levels during the past 50 years and this will continue because of global warming. In addition, lack of oxygen will be a serious problem in coastal seas commonly affected by eutrophication (sewage and agricultural runoff being the main reasons).

In case CO2 release by us planet Earth inhabitants continues at the current level, acidification of sea water will be a major factor affecting ocean life, marine food production and coastal protection. Acidification would be felt for example on coral reefs, where erosion in the near future could exceed reef formation (calcification). This in turn would degrade the reef habitat and result in the destruction of the natural breakwaters formed by corals – a serious consideration in coastal regions commonly hit by heavy storms.

As to the direct physical and geochemical consequences of global warming in the ocean by 2050, they include: reduced seasonal ice zones, increasing stratification (separation) of ocean layers leading to oxygen depletion, increased venting of methane from the bottom of the Arctic Sea, and more common low oxygen -events in the oceans.

Around the globe, fisheries management is still unable to stop overfishing. The decline of key species and damage to the ecosystems where the fish stock live continue. All this undermines the resilience of the oceans.

Unauthorised fishing in the national economic zone: Argentine coast guard proudly presents the foreign fishing vessels detained by its patrol vessel. Photo from Puerto Madryn, Argentina.

Unauthorised fishing in the national economic zone: Argentine coast guard proudly presents the foreign fishing vessels detained by its patrol vessel. Photo from Puerto Madryn, Argentina.

Urgent measures proposed by IPSO and IUCN include:

Reduction of global CO2 emissions to keep temperature rise in less than 2 degrees C.

Implementation of community- and ecosystem-based management and favouring small-scale fisheries. Harmful fisheries’ subsidies resulting in overcapacity would need to be eliminated. In addition, vulnerable ecosystems would need an increased level of protection. Finally, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing would need to to be combated.

Development of a more relevant global infrastructure for high-seas ocean governance is necessary. Especially a new implementing agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction is needed (within the United Nations Law of the Sea – UNCLOS – framework).

UN Conference on Sustainable Development: highlights of the Rio+20 final document

At the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio (June 2012), binding new international agreements were not agreed upon, which was disappointing. Nevertheless, the final document is worth summarising in order to highlight the most important common views of the world´s governments as regards sustainable development and the marine environment. Luckily, in the management of seas and oceans important progress was achieved. The following is a summary – with special reference to coasts, seas and oceansof  the final document “The Future We Want”:

The document states that for sound development in general, holistic, integrated and sustainable management of natural resources needs to be promoted. At the same time, economic, social and human development should be supported.  Also, the international community is asked to move the sustainable development agenda forward, through the achievement of internationally agreed goals including the existing Millennium Development Goals. Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is mentioned as one of the important tools available for achieving sustainable development.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development was held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. The achievements of the meeting were minor. Only in the “seas and oceans” action area important progress was achieved. Aerial photo of Rio (c) 2012 copyright Erkki Siirila.

The Rio participants recognise the key role that improving energy efficiency plays. This includes the increasing share of renewable energy and cleaner, more energy-efficient technologies. Climate change as a persistent crisis is acknowledged: the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective international response. Naturally, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is needed. Also the related urgent needs of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are mentioned in the final document.

The need for effective, transparent, accountable and democratic natural resources´ management institutions is mentioned in the document. So is the need for contributions towards sustainable development by both the public/private sectors and the scientific/technological communities. We are also reminded of the important role of citizens at the grass-root level, e.g. fishers, in the development of production activities which are environmentally more sound. The valuable contributions by  NGOs in promoting sustainable development are acknowledged.

The establishment of UNEP as a permanent UN organisation (instead of being a non-permanent programme) was not achieved, but it was decided that UNEP would be strengthened. In addition, the participants decided to establish an intergovernmental high-level political forum replacing the current UN Commission on Sustainable Development.

In the final document, the participating states recognise the severity of global biodiversity loss and degradation of ecosystems: this underlines the importance of biodiversity conservation, enhancing habitat connectivity and building ecosystem resilience.

In the Oceans and Seas chapter of The Future We Want, important progress can be observed. To begin with, the participating states commit to protect and restore the health, productivity and resilience of oceans and marine ecosystems, and to maintain their biodiversity for the conservation / sustainable use by the present and future generations. Furthermore, the participants agree to apply an ecosystem approach and the precautionary principle in marine management.

The Rio conference delegations recognise the importance of UNCLOS (Law of the Sea) in advancing sustainable development and they emphasise the need for cooperation in marine scientific research. The states also support the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment (established under the UN General Assembly) and look forward to the completion of its first global integrated assessment by 2014.

In Rio de Janeiro, the participating states supported the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment. The states look forward to the completion of the first global integrated assessment by 2014. The marine image was taken off Callao, Peru, photo copyright (c) 2012 Erkki Siirila.

In the seas and oceans chapter, the importance of the conservation / sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction is recognised. Building on the work of an international working group (and before the end of the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly) the Rio participants commit to address this issue on an urgent basis.

The states also note with concern that the health of the oceans and marine biodiversity are negatively affected by marine pollution. The final document mentions marine debris, plastic, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals, and nitrogen-based compounds. The sources mentioned include marine and land-based sources, including shipping and land runoff. The participants commit to take action to reduce the incidence and impacts of such pollution on marine ecosystems. The relevant measures would include implementation of IMO conventions and the follow-up of relevant initiatives such as the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities. With the help of scientific assessments, the states further commit to take action to significantly reduce marine debris by 2025.

In the seas and oceans chapter the participants note the significant threat which alien invasive species pose to marine ecosystems, and commit to implement measures to prevent their introduction. The management of the adverse environmental impacts will be improved including those alien species adopted in the framework of IMO.

Sea level rise and coastal erosion are noted as serious threats for many coastal regions and islands particularly in developing countries. International action to address these challenges is called for in the final document.

The participating states also call for support to initiatives that address ocean acidification and the impacts of climate change on marine and coastal ecosystems and resources. They reiterate the need to work collectively to prevent further ocean acidification, as well as to enhance the resilience of marine ecosystems and of the communities whose livelihoods depend on them. The importance of marine scientific research, monitoring and observation of ocean acidification and of particularly vulnerable ecosystems through international cooperation are mentioned.

In the Rio final document the participating states stress their concern about the potential environmental impacts of ocean fertilization. They recall the decisions related to ocean fertilization adopted by the relevant intergovernmental bodies, and decide to continue addressing ocean fertilization with utmost caution. The precautionary approach will be applied.

In Rio the participating states promised to intensify the efforts to meet the 2015 target as to maintenance or restoring fisheries stocks to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield on an urgent basis. The photo of the fishing vessel is from the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), copyright (c) 2012 Erkki Siirila.

The Rio participants commit, on an urgent basis, to intensify the efforts to meet the 2015 target as to maintenance or restoring fisheries stocks to levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield. The foreseen time frame is “the shortest time feasible”. To achieve this, the states commit to urgently develop and implement science-based management plans. Fisheries reduction and suspension are listed as management methods. The importance of by-catch reduction and the control of destructive fishing practices are mentioned as well as the importance of impact assessments.

Relating to UNCLOS, the Rio delegations urge states to fully implement the 1995 Agreement on the Conservation and Management of Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. Furthermore, all States are called upon to implement the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the corresponding FAO International Plans of Action and technical guidelines.

The final document acknowledges that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing deprives many countries of a crucial natural resource and remains a persistent threat to their sustainable development. A recommitment to eliminate IUU fishing is presented. Reference is made to the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation which aims at preventing and combating these practices in the following ways: a) by implementing national and regional action plans in accordance with FAO’s international IUU combat plan, b) by identifying vessels engaged in IUU fishing, c) by depriving offenders of the benefits accruing from IUU fishing, and d) by cooperating with developing countries to systematically identify needs and build capacity (monitoring, control, surveillance, compliance and enforcement systems).

The Rio delegations recognise the need for transparency and accountability in fisheries management by regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs). The efforts already made by those RFMOs that have undertaken independent performance reviews are recognised. A call is presented on all RFMOs to regularly undertake such reviews, publish the results and implement the recommendations.

Furthermore, the Rio final document reaffirms the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation as to elimination of subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and overcapacity, mentioning the importance of this sector to developing countries. Reference is made to the WTO Doha Development Agenda and the Hong Kong Ministerial mandates for more vigorous control of fisheries subsidies. Prohibition of subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and over-fishing is mentioned as a control measure. States are also encouraged to eliminate subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and over-fishing, to refrain from introducing new such subsidies and to refrain from extending or enhancing existing subsidies.

A commitment to ensure access to fisheries and corresponding markets by fishers (subsistence, small-scale, artisanal) and women fish workers and indigenous peoples is also presented, highlighting the needs of these communities in developing countries and small island developing states.

The importance of coral reef conservation and marine protected areas is highlighted in the final document of the Rio conference on sustainable development. Image from a Red Sea coral reef in Egypt, photo copyright (c) 2012 Erkki Siirila.

As to coral reefs and mangroves, the Rio delegations recognise the significant economic, social and environmental contributions of coral reefs, in particular to islands and other coastal states, as well as the significant vulnerability of the reefs and mangroves to impacts including from climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing, destructive fishing practices and pollution. Support for international cooperation is expressed in order to conserve coral reef and mangrove ecosystems and to realise their social, economic and environmental benefits. Facilitation of technical collaboration and voluntary information sharing are mentioned as supporting measures. Surprisingly, sea grass beds are not separately mentioned in the Rio final document. (The importance of healthy sea grass beds as carbon sinks in fighting global climate change has recently been acknowledged by the marine science research community).

In the seas and oceans chapter of The Future We Want, the delegations reaffirm the importance of area-based conservation measures, including marine protected areas, consistent with international law and based on best available scientific information. The participants note decision X/2 of the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, that by 2020, 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are to be conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.

Finally, it may be considered surprising that the importance of managing the sea-land interface as a special area was not mentioned in The Future We Want. As the coastal zone is an area of many opportunities, user conflicts, resource degradation and lost opportunities, it would have been natural to say something in the Rio final document about the need for integrated coastal zone management.

Integrated coastal zone management: a specialist highlights the needs, benefits and techniques

Dr. Peter R. Burbridge is a well-known advocate of integrated coastal zone management (ICZM). In a recent Coastal Challenges interview he explained what integrated coastal management is and why it is needed. Here are some of the comments made by Dr. Burbridge, Emeritus Professor of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in the U.K.:

“The development challenges facing humanity are most complex in the coastal regions. Why? Partly because the richness and diversity of the coastal resources’ opportunities to support economic and social development are much greater than in the terrestrial environment or the purely marine environment. It is that interface between the sea and the land where we find the most complex, the most rich and the most diverse forms of natural resources. And they sustain many different forms of economic development. And that means that there is much competition for access to and often exclusive use of the coastal area and coastal resources. Now, the challenge we face as managers is trying to maximise the potential use of these resources without damaging the very resource base which creates those resources in the first place.”


Dr. Burbridge being interviewed on integrated coastal management in Helsinki. Photography and copyright (c) 2012 Erkki Siirila.

“You need integration in the sense that there are different economic and social groups wanting to have access to the coast. And what you have to do is to try to treat them equitably, so that everybody has an equal chance of access to the resource but without damaging the resource for other people to enjoy and use in effective ways.  And that means that you have to get the different economic sectors to try to coordinate their activities so that they don´t disrupt the potential flow of benefits from the coast – without destroying the natural systems. And that’s the challenge. And that’s why we talk about integration. It is integration of different economic sectors, different social demands from the coast and different political systems trying to coordinate the development process more effectively.  We are talking about development planning here. We are not talking about environmental conservation. The environmental conservation is one tool to manage the natural systems.”

“Integrated coastal management is a set of principles to guide development planning. It is meant to create a working environment where people see that there are ways of doing things that are less environmentally damaging and more economically responsible, and create a greater social benefit. And that’s difficult, to get people to think of the environment, the economy and social aspects in the same sentence. And that’s what coastal management is trying to do. We are not purely trying to protect the environment, we are not trying to maximise the economic activities at the cost of social equity.”


Coastal zone activities in Helsinki, Finland, in April 2012. Photo copyright (c) 2012 Erkki Siirila.

“One of the problems we have is getting any political system to understand how complex the coastal resource pressures are, but also the great value of the coast, the strategic value of the coast in meeting social and economic pressures. And those pressures have to be managed. And the economic rationale behind that is that you can get greater social and  economic benefits by wise management than you can by totally unregulated free-for-all development. And that’s the challenge, this convincing people that the strategic value of the coast is important enough to invest in managing the coast effectively.”

The interview (“Dr. Peter Burbridge and Integrated Coastal Zone Management” on Youtube) addresses more coastal management topics than those mentioned above. Here is the direct Youtube link:

Coastal zone of Chile: ten management recommendations

Chile is a country with thousands of kilometres of coastline (the exact length of the coast depends on the definition applied). Naturally, moving towards integrated coastal zone management benefits a country like that.

The Coastal Challenges editor did a consultancy in the Fourth Region (Coquimbo Region) of Chile a few years ago. One of the results was a set of general guidelines for integrated coastal management in that region. In the ten conclusions/recommendations the local experiences were combined with the lessons learned in coastal management internationally.

A powerful tsunami in 2010 made Chileans aware of the need for sound coastal management. This Chilean government fax indicating there was a tsunami risk was not enough to result in massive coastal evacuations. As a result, lots of human lives were lost.

The conclusions and recommendations for integrated management of the Coquimbo coastal area are listed below:

  1. Integrated management of the coastal zone is a learning process with incremental implementation, feedback and adjustment mechanisms.
  2. At all levels of action, it is important to build the integrated management on a sustainable  financial and economic base, for example through self-funding.
  3. It is important to incorporate in the process the opinions of all the involved and interested parties, for example by applying conflict resolution mechanisms.
  4. It is essential that the actions keep focus on just a few issues which are understood by all the participants in the process. The focus on the issues means that an exact definition of the coastal zone is not a precondition for the action to begin.
  5. In general, construction on the local institutional roots is the safest option. E.g. the existing management systems, which are politically supported, can be modified instead of building totally new management institutions. Also in this case, the application of innovative ideas for real integration is important.
  6. A long-term vision is essential, and as part of this, opportunities should be left open for the future generations.
  7. The management should be based on good knowledge of the laws of nature. Implementation would need to be proactive instead of retroactive.
  8. It is important that the decision-making system is just and efficient.
  9. It is essential to understand that combining sustainable management with the poverty of resource users is difficult. Because of this, development of economic alternatives for the least favoured groups is needed.
  10. In sustainable coastal zone management, integration mechanisms are only one element. Specific action is needed also in the management of key species and habitats, pollution control, land use planning and environmental impact assessment. In addition to integration, sectoral activities in these and other action fields need to continue. (Naturally, sector-specific work needs to go on, but the sectoral actions should no more be implemented in isolation from other coastal zone activities.)

Key considerations for integrated coastal zone management, part 3

The third part of this Coastal Challenges’ article continues summarising conclusions presented in Lessons from the European Commission’s Demonstration Programme on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM). The original text is often cited directly – this is in harmony with the publishing conditions of the EU report.

The ICZM process: legal issues

Legislation has an impact on all of the phases of an ICZM initiative, from information collection to policy implementation. Law has the potential to facilitate the process of ICZM, but it also has the capacity to limit or impede it. A diversity of legal systems exists, but analysis reveals a similarity of legal problems in the countries. Although ICZM is a modern development, it must inevitably function within a complex legal framework, most of which pre-dates the concept of ICZM and was created for different purposes.

The coast has traditionally been regarded as a jurisdictional boundary between land-based  laws and marine laws, and has rarely been recognised as an integral zone of legal competence. – There is no common practice on the definition of the coastal zone, although restricted concepts of the seashore have arisen within the legal system of some states (in the context of land ownership), by reference to selective tidal criteria. These criteria are too restrictive for ICZM.

There is no common practice on the definition of the coastal zone, although restricted concepts of the seashore have arisen within the legal system of some states. Photo from Panama, (c) 2011 Erkki Siirila.

It is probably not desirable to have an exclusive legal definition of the coastal zone for general purposes, but preferable to include all areas where land and sea exert mutual influence. However, specific boundaries need to be defined at the stage when management is applied to particular places. These boundaries should be flexible enough to embrace the dynamic nature of the coast. In particular, the boundaries should not subdivide natural areas that ought to be managed as a whole.

The coastal zones of most coastal states are governed by a complex framework of laws, which are usually sectoral, uncoordinated and unsuited for ICZM. Sectoral laws may unintentionally work against the objectives of ICZM. Sectoral laws may also be inadequate in that they may not cover both the land and sea components of the coastal zone.

In order to promote integrated management, there is a need for a thorough review of these laws, to identify overlaps, lacunae, and inconsistencies, at each level of administration and between levels. As far as possible, these inadequacies should be corrected to harmonise the legislation relevant to the coastal zone, even if consolidation is not possible.

If the parameters of each government agency´s responsibility are not clearly defined, conflicts may arise due to “vertical overlap” and “horizontal overlap”. – Relevant sectoral legislation should be amended or replaced by provisions that explicitly define the responsibilities of each authority, and explain the relationship between them.

Where coastal land is privately owned, the legal rights of individual landowners may conflict with the public needs of management. Another type of concern is caused by the fact that the market system is inefficient or inequitable in allocating the coastal zone benefits (recreational, socio-cultural, etc.) among users, with overexploitation and degradation as the result. This implies a need for government leadership in defining public and private rights and obligations. – Public rights of access to near-shore waters have often been the first purely coastal issues governed by specific coastal legislation. In offshore areas, rights are affected by principles of international law.

The Lysekil coast in Sweden is an area where the public demand for marine-related recreation is high. Photo (c) 2011 Erkki Siirila.

In many countries, the shorefront is public or state property, but inland from this point most land is privately owned. In contrast, the sea is usually in the public domain as far as the limit of territorial waters (up to a maximum of 12 miles). Beyond the territorial limit, states have rights of exploitation rather than ownership in their continental shelf or exclusive economic zone (200 miles).

Where law has traditionally given unsustainable rights to private landowners, the public acquisition of coastal land by negotiation or compulsary purchase provides the opportunity to manage it. Acquisition is an important method of safeguarding sensitive sites, however it is only feasible if corresponding funds are available; it is also not politically feasible everywhere. – Military ownership of land is particularly problematic, due both to strict access limitations and to confidentiality of activities on the property. These issues make it difficult to even assess the impact that the activities are having.

As an alternative approach to better management of private coastal lands, public authorities may be able to enter into contractual agreements with private landowners who accept restrictions or undertake positive measures on their own land in return for compensation.

In some countries, e.g. Finland,  “everyman´s right” entitles the public to go where they like on land and water in the countryside, including shore zones, provided they behave responsibly. Everyman´s rights should be well thought out, in order to avoid additional conflicts among resource users.

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Lessons from the European Commission Demonstration Programme on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM), ISBN 92-828-6471-5, can be downloaded from here: EU report. The reproduction of the publication is authorised provided the source is acknowledged.

Key considerations for integrated coastal zone management, part 2

Many of the important conclusions presented in the report Lessons from the European Commission’s Demonstration Programme on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) are summarised in the second part of this Coastal Challenges’ article. The original text is often cited directly – this is in harmony with the publishing conditions of the EU report.

The ICZM process: collaboration issues

In coastal management, two types of collaboration can be distinguished. They are cooperation and participation. One of the key objectives of cooperation, which is involvement and collaboration of administrative partners, is coordination of policy. Mechanisms to achieve cooperation may include consultation and joint working groups. In participation, which means involvement and collaboration of a wide range of partners, e.g. NGOs, citizens and the private sector, the mechanisms include steering groups, technical panels and newsletters.

Collaboration should not be left to chance. Nor should it be considered without cost. In fact, cooperation and participation (together with information collection) are two of the most expensive and time-consuming elements of an ICZM initiative. Commonly there is even a need for a collaboration strategy in a coastal management initiative.

Technical jargon needs to be avoided and a common language found when government professionals and artesanal fishermen meet at a coastal management consultation. Photo from Saint Lucia, (c) 2011 Erkki Siirila.

Failing to correctly identify all of the relevant stakeholders can defeat the collaboration attempts. A stakeholder analysis should identify the relevant organisations and individuals. The involvement of these actors should then be ensured. Recruiting stakeholders as partners, for example through a steering group, is also a common mechanism for ensuring involvement and generating funding.

It may take a considerable amount of time to bring all of the stakeholders on  board. However, this process of involving all stakeholders and maintaining their involvement is itself part of the integrated management process, a part which is essential to ensuring the success of the whole ICZM venture. – A periodic reassessment of the relevant stakeholders is often needed. It is important not to forget future generations and others who are not physically present.

Effective communication should be remembered in order to prevent misunderstandings, conflicts, frustration, uncertainty, delays, extra costs, confusions over responsibilities, difficulties in respecting the common goals and activities, and also to prevent a poor project image. Good communication from the beginning is important, as early mistakes in communication may be especially difficult to remedy. – Effective communication is a two-way process. A “common language” should be developed, as understanding can be hindered by the use of technical jargon.

The impact that higher level plans can have on the coastal zone implies that an ICZM initiative will fail without the involvement and commitment of middle and upper level authorities. A particularly important obstacle to ICZM occurs when unexpected decisions are determined sectorally by national or regional agencies without local involvement. – Mechanisms are needed to ensure vertical communication and cooperation in policy development, as well as to ensure that the local individuals and organisations have a voice in any higher level decisions that will have significant impact on them. In addition to vertical cooperation, horizontal cooperation between neighbouring authorities is a logical component of ICZM initatives.

Cooperation across the land-sea boundary is a central consideration in coastal management initiatives, as the lack of this cooperation is a key problem in the coastal zone. Improvements can be achieved only by ensuring that authorities and economic actors active in both domains are involved in the process. Generally a better understanding of the nature of the interactions and interdependencies between the land and sea components of the coastal zone is needed. The marine issues need to be adequately linked to land-based planning and management activities.

Sectoral pressures and conflicts are widespread in coastal zones and commonly one sector may see the others as a threat to its own objectives. These conflicts and the need to resolve them are often the trigger for ICZM initiatives. Nevertheless, intra-sectoral conflicts can often be as damaging as inter-sectoral conflicts. – Specific conflict resolution techniques do exist. They can offer crucial help in finding compromises and widely accepted solutions in conflict situations.

Sectoral activities are commonly governed by sectoral laws, implemented by sectoral branches of administration. In view of the significant number of perceived conflicts between sectoral interests, it is essential for the relevant branches of administration to work together to find common ICZM solutions. Development of mechanisms to facilitate cooperation may be a gradual process that needs to break down traditional barriers and may even need changes in legal competencies. – Convincing the public of the long-term interest in finding common solutions may lead to pressure on sectoral administrations to work together.

Cooperation across the land-sea boundary is important in coastal management initiatives. Photo from Porkkala, Finland, (c) 2011 Erkki Siirila.

Public participation is particularly important to ensure that an ICZM initiative addresses issues related to quality of life, cultural and social heritage, and leisure time pursuits. Public involvement also helps ensure the implementability of any recommendations or plans. NGOs and civic organisations can play an important role by defending specific aspects of the societal good.

In ICZM initiatives it is also important to involve the private sector and stimulate private-public partnerships. Active private sector partners can often bring financial resources for the implementation phase. Involvement of financial institutions may be particularly important.

Commonly, lack of sufficient resources is cited as a prime issue for coastal management. Where an ICZM initiative is, or becomes, a statutory activity, the financing issues may be eased. In other cases there is a need for creativity to make the best use of funding mechanisms. – As regards economic (steering) instruments such as taxes, subsidies, rebate systems and tradable permits, they can greatly help in reaching ICZM goals. These instruments are promising but not widely used to implement ICZM at present.

Overall, improved communication and information availability may be key in convincing the private sector that ICZM is in its best long-term interest, and mobilising investment that supports ICZM. Comprehensive information at all phases of the process also plays an important role in sending the correct signals to the market system, thus improving the chances that the market will promote ICZM-supporting activities and exchanges. Legal instruments may be needed to encourage short-term players to act sustainably.

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Lessons from the European Commission Demonstration Programme on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM), ISBN 92-828-6471-5, can be downloaded from here: EU report. The reproduction of the publication is authorised provided the source is acknowledged.