1998 United Nations Year of the Oceans
Characteristics of the Coast: Major Problems & Issues


Strategic Initiative for Ocean and Coastal Management
The Year of the Ocean 1998
California Ocean Resources Management Program
Marine Biology and Coastal Lists
The American Coastal Coalition: 1998 National Coastal Summit
Center for Marine Conservation: 1998 Coastal Cleanup
California Coastal Conservancy
The Sustainable Development Institute (SDI)
National Sea Grant Office

The Context

About half of the world's population lives within 60 miles of the coast. By 2025 an estimated 6.3 billion people are expected to reside there.

In California, seven ocean dependent industries contributed US$ 17.3 billion to the States' economy in 1993, and over 370,000 jobs. Tourism alone accounts for $10 billion of this.

Environmental Issues in the Coastal Zone

See A Guide to Integrated Coastal Zone Management

    The major environmental issues in the coastal zone can be listed as follows:


 Non-Point Pollution
        Sewage Waste Inputs
        Eutrophication and HABs
 Point Source Pollution
        Thermal Effluents
        Industrial and Heavy Metal Discharges

Habitat Alterations

    Physical Removal of Ecosystems
    Removal/Rerouting of Freshwater and Sustaining Nutriment to Food Webs
    Removal of Substrates
    Removal/Rerouting of Freshwater and Nutriment
    Loss of Biodiversity

Fisheries Disruptions

    Genetic Alterations & Loss of Biodiversity
    Bycatch Pollution
    Bycatch Food Web Alterations
    Unsustainable Aquaculture

Climate Change

An Instructive Example - Problems Identified for the Lingayen Gulf, Philippines (Gomez and McManus  1997) -

Habitat destruction
Unsustainable aquaculture
Coastal erosion
Lack of alternative livelihoods
Weak institutional arrangements
Lack of political will

Unsustainable Population Growth is the Key

    Pressure on coastal resources is driven by the addition of nearly 90 million persons a year to the Earth. A recent assessment in Science (1997) stated that 37% of the world's population lives within 100 km of the coast. Add to this increased numbers of people is the unprecedented growth in affluence in East Asia. Coastal resource management and user conflicts are tied to population growth, which is in turn tied to urbanization, ecosystem destruction, food, water, energy, health, public safety and community stability issues. Curbing population growth is the key issue for future environmental and social sustainability of the coastal zone.

    In the developing nations, the population growth is alarming. Over the next 20 years, of every 10,000 new births, only 50 will be in the rich countries (Swaminathan 1992). "A poverty curtain divides the world materially and philosophically. One world is literate, the other largely illiterate; one industrial and urban, the other predominately agrarian and rural; one consumption oriented, and the other struggling for survival" (Swaminathan 1992).

    The rich countries today consume about 20 times more resources per capita than the poor countries. But as economies have strengthened, especially in Southeast Asia, consumption rates of resources are rising dramatically. Some believe that there is no fundamental difference in consumption behaviors between East and West. This theory is being borne out in Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia - as incomes rise in East Asia resource consumption and waste production will rise in a similar fashion as occurred in the West in the 1950's-70's (Stern et al. 1997).

    But if resource consumption in Asia rises to the levels of the West, we will need the resources of two more Earth's to meet those demands, e.g. we've got to find a better way to run a planet (Goodland and Daly 1996; Wackernagel and Rees 1996).

    Recently, a group of scientists have banded together to ask world leaders to provide leadership to initiate incentives to reduce family size and conserve natural resources in order to achieve a high standard of living (Pimental and Dodds 1997).


Folke, C. et al. 1997. The ecological footprint concept for sustainable seafood production: a review. Ecological Applications, in press.

Goodland, R. and H. Daly. 1996. Environmental sustainability: universal and non-negotiable. Ecological Applications 6: 1002-1017.

Stern, P. et al. 1997. Environmentally significant consumption. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.

Wackernagel, M. and W. Rees. 1996. Our Ecological Footprint. New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, B.C., Canada,