The capacity of most coastal nations to utilize their coastal and marine assets, while simultaneously protecting them from degradation, is lacking.

Although the success of coastal tourism is subject to local security issues as well as global economic pressures, its sustainability depends, above all, on the protection and beneficial management of those assets. The region’s fisheries have scope for restoration and continuing to be major contributors to coastal livelihoods, and the national economy, but only if the pressures leading to overexploitation and pollution can be controlled. Oil and natural gas development and mineral extraction have a potential for increasing the general levels of economic security and human well-being in the short to medium term, but these resources are finite and there is a need to diversify into sustainable ventures.

The overexploitation of fisheries at artisanal and industrial scales using unsustainable fishing methods, and the introduction to coastal ecosystems of invasive alien species from marine sources, are further concerns. Coastal ecosystems, especially estuaries and lagoonal wetlands, are becoming increasingly impacted by activities within river catchment, with deforestation, intensive agriculture, damming and irrigation all changing the nature of material fluxes (water, sediment, nutrients and pesticides) (Arthurton and others 2002, Crossland and others 2005). At the global scale, human-induced atmospheric warming has been contributing to a slow but persistent eustatic sea- level rise and significant climatic changes in the region (IPCC 2001). In the last decade, episodes of unusually high sea temperatures have caused widespread mortality of reef coral.

A summary of the principal issues faced in realizing development opportunities is given in Table 1.

Table 1: Issues, threats and constraints related to regional development opportunities and goals
Opportunities for development Issues, threats and constraints related to development NEPAD issues in italics

Oil and gas production Resource sustainability
Marine and coastal pollution, water- and airborne
Coastal habitat loss
Invasive species from tanker ballast waters

Coastal mineral extraction Habitat loss through excavation, siltation, pan construction
Restoration of industrial mining sites
Coastal erosion from beach sand mining

Urban, industrial and port development Urban sprawl and habitat loss through construction, siltation
Solid waste, sewage discharge and industrial effluents; hazardous waste
Pollution of coastal wetlands and seas
Invasive species especially from shipping ballast waters
Coastal erosion
Inundation due to sea-level rise; extreme wave events

Tourism growth Urban sprawl and habitat loss from construction and tourist pressures
Solid waste and sewage discharge; chemical effluents

Loss of amenity value
Coral bleaching
Coastal erosion, beach loss
Sea-level rise; extreme wave events

Marine fisheries growth and sustainability Overharvesting and use of destructive methods
By-catch and endangered species
Regulation and enforcement; illegal fishing

Protection of nursery areas
Land-sourced pollution of coastal waters
Reduced freshwater discharge from rivers (prawn fisheries)

Coastal aquaculture growth Wetland drainage and reclamation for agriculture and urban growth
Habitat and biodiversity loss, especially from pond construction
Urban, industrial and agricultural pollution; pollution from aquaculture

Lack of freshwater input
Institutional constraints
Coastal erosion; sea-level rise

Coastal agriculture sustainability Habitat and biodiversity loss
Coastal siltation from increased run-off
Reduced freshwater discharge from rivers through irrigation
Reduced flooding and sedimentation through damming
Salinization of groundwater
Control of fertilizers and pesticides
Impact of urban sprawl
Coastal erosion; sea-level rise