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Best Coastal Resource Management Programs

The Search for Best Coastal Management Programs 1998

CRM Planning and Implementation Process

Coastal Resource Management (CRM) is the process of planning, implementing and monitoring sustainable use of coastal resources through participation, collective action, and sound decision-making. It involves the following steps:


Resource assessment -- obtaining reliable information about the environmental and social factors affecting coastal resource systems -- is the first step in coastal resource management planning and implementation. The better quality the information, the more realistic the plan. For coastal resource management purposes, we usually start with secondary information and then move on to gathering primary data if needed to fill gaps. 'Secondary information' refers to existing documented information, i.e., information produced previously in ‘hard’ form -- reports, planning documents, legal documents, maps, satellite images, photographs. ‘Primary data’ refers to information generated through field assessments and interviews. The operative word in CRMP’s approach to coastal resource management is ‘participatory.’ At the outset, there is a conscious effort to engage stakeholders in the process, thus the term ‘participatory coastal resource assessment,’ meaning resource assessment involving the extensive participation of, and contributions from, local coastal resource users.


Data gathered for coastal resource management purposes make up the ‘coastal area profile.’ The basic descriptive information provided by profiles is useful, but the value of a good profile lies also in the compilation and analysis of the information it provides. One kind of information -- for example, decreased levels of live coral cover -- must be considered in relation to other kinds of information -- for instance, low fish harvest and high siltation rates -- to help ensure that the process results in meaningful conclusions which point to problems and opportunities for coastal resource management. Often, ecological and other environmental factors must also be considered in association with socioeconomic variables, thus providing useful conclusions regarding such factors as the conditions of various habitats, potential for fisheries production, and social constraints that hinder the coastal resource management process. Coastal area profiles summarize and prioritize management issues confronting the area and the local resource user communities. Based on the local situation, a list of recommended interventions and actions is presented to address the issues. The coastal area profile provides the basis for developing a management plan.


Environmental assessment involves the identification and classification of habitats (seagrass, beach, mangrove, coral reef, etc.) and resources (fish, shellfish, rocks, wood, etc.) found in the coastal area. It may also include environmental impact assessment (EIA), which serves to determine the range and severity of human impact on the surrounding environment.

Environmental assessments guide the recommendation process by providing guidelines for wastewater treatment, urban run-off, sewage, solid-waste disposal, industrial siting, upland agriculture practices, coastal agriculture and other human activities. The use of photographs or field visits to habitats are useful techniques to ensure that English and local terminologies refer to the same habitats. Habitat classification need not be hierarchical; initially, a listing will do. Later, with the use of diagrams and photos, features can be labeled and a better approximation of the habitat classification can be realized. The involvement of interpreters can help ensure accurate communication, and natural scientists should also assist in gaining the necessary understanding of the habitat regimes in each local area.


Information on demography (age, family size, religion, ethnicity, experience in fishing, population, cash and non-cash income, etc.) and other socioeconomic and cultural factors (including traditional management systems) are important inputs to the coastal resource management planning process because they reveal the coastal residents’ preferences, attitudes and abilities, and can help planners decide which projects or interventions will work best in the community. In particular, the local resource users’ knowledge of traditional management systems -- systems that usually worked well before being supplanted by new management schemes -- invariably reveal a clear understanding of sustainable use (in many cases, problems occur when outsiders come into the picture and/or commercial operations take place in coastal areas). Those involved in coastal management should have a common understanding of the approximate values of important variables, especially measures of coastal resource use, such as fish and seaweed harvests. These data are usually already available from surveys done by government agencies -- if the survey data are old, a quick sampling of 10% of the households involved can help reveal significant changes that have occurred since the initial survey was conducted.


Institutional (both formal and non-formal, political as well as administrative) arrangements -- e.g., cooperatives and people’s organizations, local government policies, rules and regulations, etc. -- prevailing in the coastal area must be considered in the coastal resource management planning process because they greatly influence resource use and have a bearing on human behavior. These arrangements specify who or what has the responsibility and authority to manage certain resources. An analysis of how they interrelate is a particularly useful input to the formulation of a coastal management plan.

Resource Use

The need for coastal resource management arises from resource use conflicts and the unsustainable use of coastal resources. To effect a good coastal management plan, one must consider the coastal area’s existing resource use systems (fishing area, reef gleaning area, tourism, aquaculture, industry, etc.) and how these systems affect the sustainability of the resource base.


Coastal resource management, like any form of management, requires a plan, i.e., a detailed program of action to achieve a desired outcome. A plan must make implementation feasible. Identifying management issues and deciding on their level of importance are essential first steps in determining what should come first in the management process. Once the issues are identified and prioritized, objectives must be set, then policies, strategies and actions are formulated. Planning for coastal management implies a high level of participation by all stakeholders, especially in evaluating and providing feedback as to the effectiveness of the plan. Such participation is not only in planning but also in implementation -- the sooner and more effectively these two merge, the better the plan. Commentary and suggestions by local resource users, field managers and others involved in coastal management allow planners to adapt and fine-tune the plan to specific-locality conditions.


The coastal management process can only become sustainable if the local government units and communities participate in the planning process and ultimately take the reins at some point during the implementation phase. The degree to which the real, on-the-ground stakeholders are taking responsibility and are able to fully comprehend and continue the planning and implementation process is the ultimate test of success in any coastal management program and plan. Incentives for this sustainable situation are continued supply of fish, improved condition of coral reefs, increasing numbers of tourists who come to scuba dive and swim, and the pride derived from sharing the management techniques and successes with neighboring communities with similar interests.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of the CRM plan is critical to the success of coastal resource management. We need to measure and monitor our gains so that lessons can be drawn and used to refine efforts. And, most important, all lessons learned and information generated must be with and through local government personnel as partners in the process.


  • White, A.T. 1997. Planning for Integrated Coastal Management: What are the steps?
  • Walters, J.S., J. Maragos, S. Siar and A.T. White. 1997. Participatory Coastal Resource Assessment: A Handbook for Community Workers and Coastal Resource Managers.
  • White, A.T. November 1996. Tambuli. Integrated Coastal Management: Lessons to Build On.

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This website was made possible through support provided by the USAID under the terms of Contract No. AID 492-0444-C-00-6028-00. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID. As long as proper reference is made to the source, articles may be quoted or reproduced in any form for non-commercial, non-profit purposes to advance the cause of marine environmental management and conservation.