The continuing capacity of the region’s coastal and marine ecosystems to provide the goods-and-services that are essential to human well-being will depend on the effectiveness of ecosystem management in response to the pressures of global change. Such management requires reliable monitoring information gathered from community to global levels and needs to be supported by nationally and internationally relevant legislation. Robust governance and institutional capacity, and the cooperative integration of sectoral interests at all scales, are essential. Response and compliance mechanisms should involve education as well as local and cultural knowledge. The enforcement of international agreements need to be strengthened, along with the promotion of public awareness and the enhancement of capacity for implementation, surveillance and enforcement, using remote sensing techniques as appropriate. Key research aims are to improve understanding of the causal linkages within, and affecting, the coastal and marine ecosystems, and of the value of the ecosystem’s services to humanity in order to appropriately inform policymakers and to provide the information that resource managers need to act effectively within policy frameworks (Crossland and others 2005).

The development and application of integrated coastal management (ICZM or ICAM) plans should be promoted, with strong inter-sectoral and international linkages, including those with catchment management authorities with responsibilities for Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM). The impacts of reduced freshwater and sediment discharge from rivers on coastal ecosystems and stability are a particular concern.

Action in terms of consultation, coordination and the implementation of relevant legislation, at various levels, is urgently needed to halt the degradation of coastal and marine fisheries (industrial, subsistence and artisanal) and to restore their sustainability for the benefit of coastal communities and national economies. Effective monitoring and surveillance capacity will be needed to achieve this goal. Remedial measures need to be agreed at the international and ecosystem levels, with a clear understanding of the long-term negative consequences for human well-being of non-compliance. Regional cooperation, such as the BCLME programme (Box 6), in the management of widespread or shared migratory stocks should be seen as essential rather than only an opportunity. Protection of artisanal fisheries in the face of population pressure and industrial-scale fishing is an urgent issue and directly impacts on well-being and the ability of countries to meet the income and nutritional targets of the MDGs. Recognizing the potential for aquaculture development, appropriate regulations are needed to protect coastal ecosystems, and to promote sustainable production practices.

Management of existing protected areas requires increased public awareness, financial support and political will, with stronger enforcement of national and international laws. Coral reefs and coastal wetlands must be rigorously protected within an integrated management framework, involving local fishermen in monitoring where feasible.

Water- and airborne pollution control measures, including coastal and catchment point and diffuse sources, as well as offshore oil and gas fields, should be obligatory, with financial incentives for compliance and penalties for non-compliance. The issues of solid waste management and of marine-transported litter impacting shores need urgent attention, particularly as they affect SIDS. The latter requires international cooperation, with a strengthening of adherence to MARPOL – the Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships.

The management of coastal erosion and marine inundation in the context of global climate change is a particularly difficult challenge, involving cooperation at local to global levels, as well as the adoption of interlinkages approaches as discussed in Chapter 8: Interlinkages: The Environment and Policy Web. Long-term planning for adaptation to sea-level rise and increased storminess should be instituted by all coastal managers, especially urban authorities. Coastal development, including tourism infrastructure, should reflect a shoreline’s susceptibility to change, with appropriate setback regimes and the relocation of vulnerable communities.

Much of the region’s coastline is exposed to extreme tsunami waves and to storm-driven marine surges that generate unusually high sea levels. Learning from the lessons of the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, the development of an early warning system for these extreme marine hazards should be a priority, as well as the promotion of public awareness and emergency procedures.