Defining the Territorial Scope for ICZM

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The ICZM as a discipline is profoundly spatially defined as it is related to the activities, including spatial planning, which ensure the best use of resources. All of these activities involve cyclical processes of plan preparation, implementation, monitoring and review. Of critical importance is to define spatial area where these activities will be implemented.

The ICZM Protocol for the Mediterranean uniquely defines the "coastal zone" in spatial terms, emphasizing the importance of the ecosystem approach and the interdependence of the land and coastal waters. Consequently, Article 3 of the ICZM Protocol defines the geographical boundary of the coastal zone as follows:

  1. the seaward limit of the coastal zone, which shall be the external limit of the territorial sea”; and
  2. the landward limit of the coastal zone, which shall be the limit of the competent coastal units."

Exceptions to this are defined where:

  1. the seaward limit is less than the external limit of the territorial sea;
  2. the landward limit is different, either more or less, from the limits of the territory of coastal units as defined above, in order to apply, inter alia, the ecosystem approach and economic and social criteria and to consider the specific needs of islands related to geomorphologic characteristics and to take into account the negative effects of climate change."

The maximum seaward limit is, therefore, relatively straightforward – the external limit of the territorial sea. There is unlikely to be a strong reason for reducing this maximum.

The landward limit is, however, less straightforward – the type and nature of “competent” coastal units varies greatly around the Mediterranean in terms of both their geographical scale (from small municipalities to extensive counties and regions), and in terms of their functions, competencies and capacities. One common element identifying the "competent" units is that all of them are bordering the sea.

The ICZM strategy, plan or programme boundary should conform to, or fall within, the limits defined by the ICZM Protocol. The geographical scale of the area cannot be predefined in this guide, and one or more of the following should determine it:

  • National guidance or the allocations of responsibilities to individual administrations, or to levels of administration such as coastal regions, counties or municipalities.
  • Bottom-up initiatives from individual or groups of coastal administrations.
  • The physical nature of the area and its landscape.
  • Local and traditional perceptions of the coastal area or its issues.
  • Functional areas that share common infrastructure, transport and access.
  • The marine area should always be included.

Whatever the scale, an ICZM strategy, plan or programme itself should recognise the inter-dependence of the area and its ecosystem as detailed below.

Techniques & Tools

In defining the ICZM strategy, plan or programme boundary, therefore, the “competent” coastal units should be reconciled with the ecosystem, economic, social and political criteria as above. The ecosystem will, in the majority of situations, extend so far as a significant maritime influence can be recognised in land-use, ecology, landscape or geology, and river catchments.

The “significant maritime influence” applies also to economic and social criteria including coastal tourism, culture, agriculture and economic uses, as well as patterns of transport and accessibility and urbanisation.

The use of administrative boundaries should be retained where possible to maintain the integrity of stakeholder accountability and recognition, policy conformity and statistical information. A pragmatic compromise of ecosystem and administration may be required. ICZM has traditionally dealt with the problem of issues which transcend management boundaries by accepting that, although the physical boundary remains fixed, policy and programme actions may be required “upstream” or “downstream” (in this case the marine territory may extend beyond the territorial sea limit). It will be the responsibility of individual parties to define these boundaries at the scoping stage. This in turn may feedback into the stakeholder analysis as there may be significant interested bodies or individuals who may be required to provide input.

The central message is that, whilst a map boundary may be fixed, the operational limits will almost inevitably “spill over” significantly into the adjoining areas, and possibly to areas which, though relatively physically remote from the ICZM strategy, plan or programme area, are fundamentally linked, within the boundaries of ecosystems, in terms of drivers, pressures, impacts and necessary responses.

The ICZM strategy, plan or programme boundary may extend beyond national boundaries where relevant. Article 28 of the ICZM Protocol draws special attention to the need for transboundary cooperation:

“The Parties shall endeavour, directly or with the assistance of the Organization or the competent international organizations, bilaterally or multilaterally, to coordinate, where appropriate, their national coastal strategies, plans and programmes related to contiguous coastal zones. Relevant domestic administrative bodies shall be associated with such coordination.”

See also


This article has been drafted by PAP/RAC
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

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