Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 stresses the need for the protection of the oceans, all kinds of seas, (including enclosed and semi-enclosed seas) and coastal areas, as well as the protection, rational use and development of their living resources. The chapter covers the following programme areas:
the integrated management and sustainable development of coastal areas, including exclusive economic zones
marine environmental protection
the sustainable use and conservation of living marine resources of the high seas
the sustainable use and conservation of living marine resources under national jurisdiction
the addressing of critical uncertainties for the management of the marine environment and climate change
the strengthening of regional and international cooperation and coordination
the sustainable development of small islands.
A wide variety of human activity can affect the coastal and marine environment. Population pressure, increasing demands for space and resources, and poor economic performances can all undermine the sustainable use of our oceans and coastal areas. The most serious problems affecting the quality and use of these ecosystems are:
the alteration and destruction of habitats and ecosystems
the effects of sewage on human health
widespread and increasing eutrophication
the decline of living resources, such as fish stocks
changes in sediment flows due to hydrological changes
the impact of climate change, including rising sea levels (GESAMP, 2001b).