Integrated coastal zone management (ICZM)

The dynamic processes that occur in coastal zones produce diverse and productive ecosystems that support valuable resources such as fish and minerals that are in high demand by coastal communities for subsistence, recreation and economic development. The process includes informed stakeholder participation and cooperation to identify community goals for the use and development of the coastal zone and take actions towards meeting these. Ultimately, integrated coastal zone management aims to balance environmental, economic, social, cultural and recreational objectives to sustainably manage the coast over the long-term.

There is a lot of information about the theory behind ICZM and the realities of putting that theory into practice. Many projects in this area are currently underway in the Caribbean. The resources below provide an overview of the theory as well as some of the tools or approaches available to managers, and the organizations and projects working toward ICZM in the Caribbean.


  • Barbados Coastal Zone Management Unit undertakes work in the following areas: coral reef monitoring and research, updating the inventory of coastal resources, reviewing and commenting on coastal developments, beach erosion and accretion monitoring and control, taking inventory of coastal structures, regulating marine research, providing public education, and designing and managing small-scale coastal conservation projects: This website provides useful information on the approach and policy considerations when undertaking ICZM and describes projects being implemented in the Caribbean.
  • The UNEP Caribbean Environment Program website provides background information on the concept of integrated coastal zone management in the Caribbean: This site also has an inventory and description of coastal and marine habitats in the Caribbean, activities that impact on the coastal zone and strategies that are being implemented in the Caribbean. Other resources include information and links to relevant international treaties and conventions and program technical reports.
  • UNEP also has a publication entitled “Taking Steps Towards Marine and Coastal Ecosystem-Based Management: An Introductory Guide” (UNEP Regional Seas Reports and Studies No. 189): This Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) guide outlines operational considerations in an accessible language, drawing upon practical experiences and lessons across the globe. The Guide aims to provide a valuable resource in assisting coastal countries and communities to move from theory to practical ecosystem-based management of our oceans and coasts. If integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) is already practiced in a region, for example, adopting an EBM approach would start with an examination of the broader area and assess both ecological and social connections at play. In this sense, EBM considers boundaries relevant to the ecosystem rather than just political and jurisdictional boundaries. ICZM may be refined toward EBM by moving from political boundaries to ecological boundaries - linking land use activities in the coastal zone and near-shore waters, and addressing ecosystem services, livelihoods, and equity issues. Benefits of using a fully integrated coastal management strategy as part of EBM include reduced coastal erosion due to adequate sediment supply being delivered via rivers and streams, healthy ecological functioning of the coastal ecosystems, maintenance of fisheries potential in the delta, reduced saline intrusion in groundwater, and overall food security. The guide at the link above would be of great interest to Caribbean coastal managers looking towards EBM, especially if some ICZM strategies are already in place.
  • The International Bank developed guidelines in 1996 as a conceptual presentation of how Integrated Coastal Zone Management may be applied to contribute to the evolving practice of environmentally sustainable development: The guidelines outline the principles of ICZM and include a step-by-step process to develop ICZM programs from implementation through to compliance and enforcement. Although largely academic with few practical examples, the guidelines do have some useful generic concepts that can be applied.
  • The Western Indian Ocean has a theme sheet on integrated coastal management as part of their marine protected area toolkit: The theme sheet provides some conceptual background on the role of integrated coastal management. The sheet highlights the role of marine protected areas within ICZM strategies and provides a practical case study. While this initiative and case study are focused around Africa, the conceptual components have value to ICZM within the Caribbean.
  • The European Union has identified eight principles of integrated coastal zone management: While focused on temperate environments, many of the principles have broader application and would provide a useful guide for managers starting new ICZM initiatives in the Caribbean

Key Publications

Biological indicators in the Caribbean coastal zone and their role in integrated coastal management. Linton DM and Warner GF (2003) Ocean and Coastal Management, 46: 261–276

Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Caribbean Region (1998) Suman. The University of Miami Inter-American Law Review, Vol. 30, No. 1: 31-52.

Coastal zone management handbook (1996). Clark JR.  Lewis Publishers, Boca Raton, United States, 694 pp.