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The Contributions of Science to Integrated Coastal Management

Reports and Studies No. 61
Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP)
ISBN 92-5-103856-2



1. GESAMP is an advisory body consisting of specialized experts nominated by the Sponsoring Agencies (IMO, FAO, UNESCO-IOC, WMO, WHO, IAEA, UN, UNEP). Its principal task is to provide scientific advice concerning the prevention, reduction and control of the degradation of the marine environment to the Sponsoring Agencies.

2. This study is available in English only from any of the Sponsoring Agencies.

3. The report contains views expressed by members of GESAMP who act in their individual capacities; their views may not necessarily correspond with those of the Sponsoring Agencies.

4. Permission may be granted by any one of the Sponsoring Agencies for the report to be wholly or partly reproduced in publications by any individual who is not a staff member of a Sponsoring Agency of GESAMP, or by any organization that is not a sponsor of GESAMP, provided that the source of the extract and the condition mentioned in 3 above are indicated.

ISBN 92-5-103856-2

For bibliographic purposes, this document should be cited as:

GESAMP (IMO/FAO/UNESCO-IOC/WMO/WHO/IAEA/UN/UNEP Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection). 1996. The contributions of science to coastal zone management. Rep.Stud.GESAMP.


This study has been prepared on the basis of the work of the GESAMP Task Force on Integrated Coastal Management, established by the 24th Session of GESAMP, New York, 21-25 March 1994.

A formal meeting of the Task Team was held in Rome, 28 November to 2 December 1994, which reported to the 25th Session of GESAMP, Rome, 24-28 April 1995. It reviewed experience with the application of integrated approaches to coastal management, based on a number of case studies prepared by its members. Building upon that work, four additional case studies that focused only on mature programmes, were commissioned and later reviewed at two meetings of the chairmen of the Task Force with selected experts, held in Oslo, 11-15 December 1995 and in Rome, 12-16 February 1996. This report was completed at these meetings and subsequently reviewed by the 26th session of GESAMP, Paris, 25-29 March 1996, and approved for publication in its present form.

Contributions to the work of the Task Force by the following experts are acknowledged with appreciation: Richard G.V. Boelens, Robert E. Bowen, Chua Thia-Eng, Ingwer J. De Boer, Danny L. Elder, Edgardo Gomez, John S. Gray (Co-chairman), Graeme Kelleher, William Matuszeski, Liana McManus, Heiner Naeve (Secretariat), Magnus Ngoile, Stephen B. Olsen (Co-chairman), Jayampathi I. Samarakoon, Randell G. Waite and Helen T. Yap.

The work of the Task Force was jointly sponsored by the United Nations (UN), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - Inter-governmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The Secretariat was provided by FAO.

The Terms of Reference for the Task Team on Integrated Coastal Management were as follows:

(1) Present a concise description of the structure of ICM emphasizing its scope and objectives;

(2) Identify and evaluate the scientific elements (social and natural) required to support the stages of the ICM process drawing on an analysis of ICM case studies;

(3) Identify factors and approaches that have either facilitated or impeded the incorporation of science into ICM.


In this report, GESAMP draws on experience from programmes in different geographic and socioeconomic settings to identify how science and scientists can contribute to the effectiveness of Integrated Coastal Management (ICM).

The goal of ICM is to improve the quality of life of human communities who depend on coastal resources while maintaining the biological diversity and productivity of coastal ecosystems. Thus, the ICM process must integrate government with the community, science with management, and sectoral with public interests in preparing and implementing actions that combine investment in development with the conservation of environmental qualities and functions.

In the opinion of GESAMP, successful ICM programmes will involve:

a) public participation whereby the values, concerns and aspirations of the communities affected are discussed and future directions are negotiated;

b) steps by which relevant policies, legislation and institutional arrangements (i.e., governance) can be developed and implemented to meet local needs and circumstances while recognizing national priorities;

c) collaboration between managers and scientists at all stages of the formulation of management policy and programmes, and in the design, conduct, interpretation and application of research and monitoring.

From its consideration of existing experience on ICM structures and procedures, GESAMP has derived a conceptual framework to identify for each stage in the management process, the necessary contributions from natural and social scientists. GESAMP recognizes that progress towards sustainable forms of coastal development will be achieved by ICM programmes that cycle repeatedly through the stages of the management process. Each cycle may be considered a generation of an ICM programme.

It is clear that the management of complex ecosystems subject to significant human pressures cannot occur in the absence of science. The natural sciences are vital to understanding ecosystem function and the social sciences are essential to elucidating the origin of human-induced problems and in finding appropriate solutions. The need to design studies in accordance with clearly-stated objectives is particularly important. Scientific techniques and procedures that are particularly useful to ICM include resource surveys, hazard and risk assessments, modelling, economic evaluations and analyses of legal and institutional arrangements. Scientific support is also needed in the selection of management control measures and in preparing material for public information and education.

Despite great differences in the social, economic and ecological conditions in the countries from which the four case studies were drawn, there is remarkable consistency in the lessons learned about the contributions of science to ICM. They demonstrate that scientists and managers must work together as a team if scientific information generated for ICM is to be relevant and properly applied for management purposes. Since the two professions have different perspectives and imperatives and approach the solution of problems differently, the objectives and priorities for programmes must be derived, tested and periodically re-evaluated by scientists and managers working together.

GESAMP recognizes the need to build constituencies for ICM initiatives and the importance of matching policies and management actions to the capabilities of the institutions involved. Some countries experiencing severe coastal degradation and where remedial measures are urgently required, may not have the necessary frameworks for environmental management and must focus much of their effort initially on creating the institutional context in which effective resource management can occur.


GESAMP (IMO/FAO/UNESCO-IOC/WMO/WHO/IAEA/UN/UNEP Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection) The contributions of science to coastal zone management. Reports and Studies, GESAMP. No. 61. Rome, FAO. 1996. 66 p.

The scope, objectives and defining features of Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) are briefly described and a conceptual framework for the effective operation and evolution of ICM programmes is presented. ICM is a dynamic and continuous process by which progress towards sustainable use and development of coastal areas may be achieved. ICM programmes therefore have the dual goals of conserving the productivity and biodiversity of coastal ecosystems while improving and sustaining the quality of life of human communities. This requires the active and ongoing involvement of the interested public and the many sectoral groups with interests in how resources are allocated, development options are negotiated and conflicts mediated.

Selected case studies from a diversity of settings in developed and developing nations reveal striking commonalties in the interplay between science and ICM and demonstrate that effective ICM cannot occur in the absence of science. The natural sciences are vital to understanding the functioning of ecosystems and the social sciences are essential to comprehending patterns of human behaviour that cause ecological damage and to finding effective solutions. Scientists and resource managers often have different perspectives and imperatives. Nevertheless, as the case studies clearly suggest, they must work together as a team through all stages of an ICM programme and reach agreement on the scientific work needed to address priorities and guide policy development. The case studies also underscore that programmes must tailor their scope and objectives for a given period to the capabilities of the institutions involved. Where such institutions are weak, and the constituencies required to support an ICM initiative are not yet in place, programmes must first work to create societal conditions wherein the community will be receptive to the aims and procedures of resource management.

Key Words: coastal management, science and public policy, policy process, public participation, resource management.