Coastal zones are among the most productive areas in the world, offering a wide variety of valuable habitats and ecosystems services that have always attracted humans and human activities. The beauty and richness of coastal zones have made them popular settlement areas and tourist destinations, important business zones and transit points. Currently, more 200 million European citizens live near coastlines, stretching from the North-East Atlantic and the Baltic to the Mediterranean and Black Sea.
But this intensive concentration of population and excessive exploitation of natural resources puts enormous pressure on our coastal ecosystems leading to biodiversity loss, habitats destruction, pollution, as well as conflicts between potential uses, and space congestion problems.
Coastal zones are also among the most vulnerable areas to climate change and natural hazards. Risks include flooding, erosion, sea level rise as well as extreme weather events. These impacts are far reaching and are already changing the lives and livelihoods of coastal communities.
Because the well-being of populations and the economic viability of many businesses in coastal zones depend on the environmental status of these areas, it is essential to make use of long term management tools, such as integrated coastal management, to enhance the protection of coastal resources whilst increasing the efficiency of their uses. A sectoral approach, lead to disconnected decisions that risk undermining each other, to inefficient use of resources and missed opportunities for more sustainable coastal development.
Integrated coastal management aims for the coordinated application of the different policies affecting the coastal zone and related to activities such as nature protection, aquaculture, fisheries, agriculture, industry, off shore wind energy, shipping, tourism, development of infrastructure and mitigation and adaptation to climate change. It will contribute to sustainable development of coastal zones by the application of an approach that respects the limits of natural resources and ecosystems, the so-called 'ecosystem based approach'.
Integrated coastal management covers the full cycle of information collection, planning, decision-making, management and monitoring of implementation. It is important to involve all stakeholders across the different sectors to ensure broad support for the implementation of management strategies.
In order to further promote sustainable development of coastal zones, the Commission adopted on the 12th of March 2013 a draft proposal for a Directive establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal management.
The proposed instrument will require Member States to establish coastal management strategies that build further on the principles and elements set out in the Council Recommendation on Integrated Coastal Zone Management of 2002 and the Protocol to the Barcelona Convention on Integrated Coastal zone Management, ratified by the EU in 2010.
Coherent application with maritime spatial planning will improve the sea-land interface planning and management, such as for instance connection of off shore wind energy installation to the electricity network on land or effects of infrastructure works to protect coastlines against erosion or flooding on activities in coastal waters such as aquaculture or protection of marine ecosystems.