The management of coastal areas in the WIO presents special challenges, as these are a vital resource underlying the development of all countries, and opportunities for improving human well-being.

The scenarios in AEO-1 (UNEP 2002a) made the following projections for the WIO islands:

  • Market Forces scenario: coastal waters become increasingly polluted and overfished, and deep-sea fishing is industrialized and internationalized with the region failing to take advantage of its legitimate rights in extended territorial waters;
  • Policy Reform scenario: the loss of coastal land due to coastal erosion, as a consequence of natural processes, is reduced but expanded coastal development continues to exert pressure on resources. Deep-sea activities prove satisfactory but the sub-region is slow to respond to opportunities;
  • Fortress World scenario: coastal and marine areas are seriously affected by overfishing. The negative effects on marine resources as a result of overexploitation by foreign vessels are compounded further by major tanker spills;
  • The Great Transitions scenario: a regional integration movement is revived to save the marine and coastal livelihood of onshore fishers and interest in deep-sea fishing is reawakened with new technologies to detect fish shoals and ensure the sustainable exploitation of living and non-living resources.

Since AEO-I, various policies have been implemented and legislation promulgated to reverse the trend in coastal degradation. These include:

  • In Mauritius, legislation in force as from October 2001 banning sand extraction in the lagoon has started to bear fruits. A survey in 2004 shows that ex-sand sites are slowly recovering and new coral and sea-grass colonies have reappeared. As at June 2003, about 3 300 households have been connected to the Baie du Tombeau wastewater treatment plant in the northwestern part of the island to reduce the discharge of untreated effluents in the lagoon. Further expansion in this connection is ongoing in other regions (Government of Mauritius 2005).
  • The Seychelles has established 11 sites for water quality and coastal erosion monitoring to obtain vital data to address beach erosion and coastal degradation issues (IOC 2004);
  • Comoros has established a Marine National Park at Moheli and plans are underway to establish another one at Coelacanthé (Ahamada and others 2004);
  • In Madagascar, ecotourism to relieve the pressure on coastal resources is being promoted. Public awareness on the vulnerability of coastal resources is being enhanced and public participation in coastal zone management encouraged with the establishment of appropriate structures to facilitate the integration process.

However, in spite of the above measures, coastal and marine degradation continues. The rate of investment in coastal development to cater for the growing tourism industry has accelerated with limited consideration for the environment. Urbanization of the coastal region is increasing. In Seychelles for instance, coastal population density on the east coast of Mahé is expected to grow from 161 to 203 persons per km² by 2015.

The following narratives consider the implications of policy choices for the future condition and health of coastal and marine resources and the consequences of this for development.