A team of 24 scientists from research institutions around the world have called on governments to introduce a system of zoning for coastal waters similar to the system of zoning used to manage and protect land-based resources.

The scientists say the system of coastal zones is needed to balance the growth in competing demands for marine resources.

A research paper prepared by the scientists states: ‘We have tended to think of the seas as our last great wilderness, yet we subject them, particularly along tropical shores, to levels of human activity as intense as those on land. The result is widespread overfishing, pollution and habitat degradation.’

The research team comments that current marine management efforts are ‘woefully inadequate’ to avoid irreparable degradation of the products and services on which so many people depend for food and well-being.

The researchers advocate wider use of marine spatial planning (MSP) as ‘an objective procedure for partitioning portions of the coastal ocean among competing uses.’ They say MSP will also help to address potential resistance to the initiative.

Lead author of the report, Peter Sales of the Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health, said MSP is an integral part of coastal marine governance, policy and planning.

“It has been used by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to design and implement plans to build America’s first offshore wind power farms,” he said.

“We propose using marine spatial planning and zoning as a framework that will apportion coastal waters for differing activities, while forcing a multi-target approach, and achieving agreed ecological, economic and social objectives.”

The report authors say that attempts at sustainable management of coastal zone waters frequently fail because:

  • They are too small in geographic scale or over too short a period of time;
  • They focus on single issues (conservation, fisheries enhancement, land-based pollution) without regard to other issues; and
  • They are imposed from ‘outside,’ often in a one-size-fits-all approach, without adequate consultation or consensus-building with the local community, management agencies or governments.

“We zone land for development, for farms, for parks, for industry and other human needs. What we need is a comparable system of care and planning for coastal ocean waters,” said Peter Sales. More information at – Marine Pollution Bulletin