Catch of the Week
Integrated Coastal Management: Tidying up the Terminology

Integrated Coastal Management: Tidying up the Terminology

Catch of the Week

Are you having trouble distinguishing between the many terms and acronyms used for managing natural resources that are related to coasts? Here’s a suggestion on how to minimize the confusion.

Fisher with his net in Dili, Timor Leste. (Photo by: Marilou Drilon)

Fisher with his net in Dili, Timor Leste. (Photo by: Marilou Drilon)

What do we mean by coastal area management (CAM), community-based coastal (or natural) resources management (CBC/NRM), ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAFM), ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM), integrated coastal resources management (ICRM), integrated coastal zone management (ICZM), integrated island management (IIM), sustainable coastal and marine resources management, and ridges to reefs (R2R)?

These terms mean the same thing, in whole or in part. Different groups of scientists and administrators have bestowed different names on the concept of caring for natural resources that occur on or near coasts. Achieving regional agreements to standardize this terminology would be difficult or impossible, because many are loath to change terms that they have grown used to and many of the terms mentioned above have become part of policy documents and regulations, with or without tight definitions. However, all of these terms describe activities that contribute to or constitute integrated coastal management (ICM), that is, management of all the resources associated with coasts. Wider use of this generic term would help to tidy up some of the confusion that exists because of the current diversity of terms.

What are we managing?

When we use terms like “fisheries management”, we really mean managing those who exploit the fish, i.e., fishers and, where aquaculture is governed as part of fisheries, fish farmers. We are really managing people, not fish.

Rubber tires used for coastal protection by islanders of Andra, Manus, Papua New Guinea.  (Photo by: Marilou Drilon)

Rubber tires used for coastal protection by islanders of Andra, Manus, Papua New Guinea.
(Photo by: Marilou Drilon)

In the context of coastal management, what we term “coastal resources” are the natural resources of the coasts. We don’t or shouldn’t manage these either, but rather manage those who exploit them, which includes not only fishers but also all who use, exploit, pollute, or otherwise change the coast itself as well as all contiguous lands, waters, and their living and nonliving resources.

The human activities that change coasts include land-based practices that can be far from the coastline; for example, agriculture and mining, from which pollutants flow down rivers and are dumped into inshore waters. The ‘Ridges to Reefs’ (R2R) approach takes account of these possibilities. The upper limits of a hinterland or watershed are termed ridges, irrespective of whether they are very ridge-like in shape.

An R2R approach to coastal management regards the lands and waters that can affect coastal resources as being in the coastal zone. This does not mean regarding all marine waters and all lands, including mountain ranges far from coasts, as being within the coastal zone. Coastal lands and waters are usually easy to delineate, based on topography and experience.

For many islands, however, an R2R approach includes the whole land mass, all inland waters and all coastal waters out to the limits of local fisheries. In recent literature, this has been termed integrated island management (IIM).

Thus, ‘coastal zone management,’ ‘coastal area management,’ ‘coastal resources management’ and (in this context) ‘natural resources management,’ ‘integrated island management,’ and the R2R approach all refer to the same thing. Moreover, effective management must ensure the sustainable use of resources, such as fisheries. Thus, the descriptor ‘sustainable’ is usually superfluous, but is included as reminder of this management goal.

Management and conservation

Dictionary definitions of ‘management’ include the necessity to take good care of whatever is being managed. Thus, management requires conservation and conservation requires management. “Management” is used and understood widely, though often without the realization that conservation must be an integral part of management, especially in the management of natural resources. Management of natural resources that excluded responsibility of care (i.e., conservation) would become mismanagement.

Conservation (or caring for, or looking after) is for a purpose—to keep the resources in good condition, for continued (or sustainable) use. If the intention was not to use them, it would be better to call the purpose preservation. However, most lands and waters and their living and nonliving resources are being exploited or about to be exploited on this crowded planet, and therefore require management, in which conservation is a key element.

The ecosystem approach

The term ‘ecosystem’ adds to the confusion over coastal terminology. The Convention on Biodiversity defines an ecosystem as “a dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment, interacting as a functional unit.” More simply, it can be thought of as a geographical area — land, water, or, usually, a combination of both — having physical characteristics and associated biological communities that define it as separate, different and sometimes unique, in comparison with other areas.

Roger Pullin (third from right) with the Atauro coastal resources management team. (Photo by: CTKN)

Roger Pullin (third from right) with the Atauro coastal resources management team.
(Photo by: CTKN)

Human activities, extreme climatic events and long-term climate change are important factors bringing change to ecosystems. Human activities often disrupt the natural balance. For example, new coastal infrastructure can change inshore currents, leading to erosion or build-up of substrates and sometimes burial of reefs. Bad land-based practices, such as clearance of mangroves or logging coastal forests, increases siltation of inshore areas and destroys the nursery grounds of fish.

In aquatic ecosystems, there are predators and prey, carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores. Some fish eat other fish. Therefore, management of living aquatic resources, including fish, must be done on an ecosystem basis. In ecosystems, the dynamic interactions among all the animals, plants and microorganisms and their surrounding habitats create what we see as broadly stable, though fluctuating, biological communities, populations and distribution ranges of fish, corals, mangroves etc., together with their associated habitats and physical features.

Fishers are the topmost predators in aquatic ecosystems. They tend to fish out the largest fish predators first, such as sharks, groupers and trevallies, which are the species that humans best like to eat, and then the smaller predators and so on down the food chain. Without effective management of fishers, future fish catches would eventually become mainly plankton, including jellyfish. An ecosystem approach to sustaining the catch of large predatory fish involves, for example, limiting the harvesting of their prey to an extent that leaves enough prey for survival of the remaining large predators (those we have not already caught). An ecosystem approach also involves looking after their habitats.

Taking an ecosystem approach, instead of trying to manage catches on a species-by-species basis, is essential for long-term sustainability of fisheries. Note that ‘ecosystem approach to’ and ‘ecosystem-based’ clearly have the same meaning with regard to managing. This means that including the term ‘ecosystem’ in a management approach is, like ‘sustainable,’ superfluous, though it serves to reminds us that management cannot be the old ‘business-as-usual’ approach of monitoring only the target species and/or taking care of only the fishing grounds, while ignoring what is happening in the rest of the coastal zone, especially land-based practices.

Agriculture, forestry, mining, tourism, and waste management can all add nutrients and pollutants to coastal ecosystems. Addressing such complex, intersectoral issues throughout the coastal areas—which include inshore marine waters—falls under the broad heading of integrated coastal management (ICM).

Managed, protected, or conservation area?

The various terms used for managed, protected and conservation areas can also be confusing. These include: ‘community conservation area (CCA)’; ‘locally managed marine area (LMMA),’ ‘marine managed area,’ ‘marine protected area (MPA),’ ‘marine park,’ ‘marine reserve,’ ‘marine sanctuary,’ and so on. In general ‘managed’ implies that fishing within limits is allowed, whereas ‘protected,’ ‘park,’ and ‘reserve,’ implying tight restrictions on fishing, with appropriate monitoring; while ‘sanctuary’ implies that no disturbance of the resources is allowed.

The generic term ‘marine protected area’ is widely used to cover all forms of such areas. However, the choice of nomenclature can have a bureaucratic or political basis. A proposed MPA might be called a CCA to place it under community-oriented legislation rather than under environment/conservation legislation, which may not specify community involvement. Scuba diving and/or some forms of responsible fishing are often allowed in marine protected areas and even if not, these areas always require management to ensure their protection. Whichever terms are used for protected areas, their establishment and management are part of ICM.

ICM as a concise and clear, generic term

The basic intent of all the terms mentioned above is to flag to government the ecological, economic, and social importance of coastal areas and their resources, and that being irreplaceable, they can no longer be dumping grounds for pollution from land-based ‘development’ as has very often been the case. Integration is emphasized in view of the typically sectoral and fragmented nature of present coastal governance, e.g., in fisheries, forestry, and urban development.

The term ICM encompasses all human activities in coastal ecosystems, including management of land-based activities, such as agriculture, forestry, industry, mining, and waste management; and water-based activities, such as use of water bodies and water courses, aquaculture, fisheries, shipping, water-based tourism, and offshore mining.

ICM can thus be defined as ensuring that all human use of lands, waters, and biodiversity in coastal areas is pursued in a responsible manner, with the interests of present and future generations in mind. Based on this definition, wider use of ICM as a concise and clear, generic term would help to reduce some of the confusion caused by the current proliferation of terminology concerning management of coastal resources.

If you find these terminology issues unimportant, or think that they are merely words for bureaucrats and academics, please think again. They affect the planning, conduct and evaluation of many coastal projects. For example, here is an excerpt from a note by a senior consultant regarding the aims of an upcoming project. The note stated the benefit of increasing community participation “in CRM (and in NRM in general…)” and that it “can assist in providing a solid platform for NRM, ICRM, EBFM, CBNRM, etc.”

Now try defining all the above terms and showing whether/how they are different. The case for wider use of the generic term ICM is surely clear.

(Contributed by Roger Pullin and Jay Maclean)

Avatar of Coral Triangle Written by Coral Triangle

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