Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Coastal Management ‘wise practices’

I spent last week at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, at a meeting on Coastal Zone Management. After the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) meeting in Barbados in 1994, UNESCO established a new division called Coastal Areas and Small Islands (CSI) to promote sustainable coastal development. They had an inaugural meeting in 1996 to discuss possible approaches (which I attended) and it was this division of UNESCO which funded the very successful exchange of fishers between Haiti and Jamaica earlier this year, about which I have previously written.

At this 1998 CSI meeting, scientists and practitioners of coastal zone management from all over the world met to summarise our experience and knowledge of ‘wise practices’ or ‘wise-use practices’, and to assist UNESCO-CSI with its strategic planning up to the year 2001.

One can usually benefit from sharing other experiences, and this meeting was no different. Coastal management efforts in Haiti, Indonesia, Samoa, Mexico, the Philippines, the Comoros, Thailand and Papua New Guinea where the emphasis is on participatory approaches to the management of fisheries, mangroves and coral reefs are the most similar to our situation in Jamaica. Other examples from our hemisphere were in Chile, Uruguay and Panama where coastal development through small communities is the approach. Our efforts through the Portland Bight Fisheries Management Council (PBFMC) are well respected in the world community, and the work of the 50 or so fishers appointed by the Governor-General as Game Wardens and Fishery Inspectors sparked a lot of interest.

Also discussed were efforts at coastal protection in Essaouira (Morocco), Alexandria (Egypt) and Venice (Italy) where ancient buildings and archaeological sites are being affected by coastal erosion.

The efforts to protect sandy beaches in the eastern Caribbean from erosion due to poor coastal development practices is of great relevance to us, and we need to link up with the efforts of this UNESCO project in Puerto Rico. Sewage and drainage problems in coastal cities in Kenya, Nigeria, Latvia, Denmark and Senegal were also discussed.

Not enough time was given to discussing the economic evaluation of natural resources, but there were excellent presentations by natural resource economists from Versailles, Paris and New Zealand on economic valuations in the Philippines, Indonesia and Europe. We need more of this kind of research in Jamaica.

A main goal of the meeting was to agree on the characteristics of ‘wise practices’ in coastal zone management, which we could implement in our own contexts, and which would guide UNESCO’s funding strategy for the next planning period. In addition to the obvious criterion of being effective in protecting coastal resources such as coral reefs, mangroves and the shoreline, we agreed that wise coastal zone management efforts should be long-term in scope, should strengthen local institutions and build capacity, should be participatory, should be culturally respectful, should promote self-reliance, should strengthen a sense of local identity, should effectively communicate, and should be properly documented so that others may fully benefit.


It was a pleasure to be among a group of coastal zone specialists who share my views that environmental management is essentially a social science, and that unless the human factor is at the centre of concern, the natural environment will continue to degrade at an alarming rate.

A highlight of the meeting was the satellite link-up between Paris and Jamaica, where the CSI participants held a video conference with members of the PBFMC and others, including NRCA executive director Franklin McDonald and eminent UWI scientist, Dr. Jeremy Woodley. Questions were directed at both sides of the Atlantic, but mostly it was the Jamaican fishers from Hellshire, Old Harbour Bay, Welcome Beach, Mitchell Town, Portland Cottage and Rocky Point explaining their role in drafting fisheries regulations for Portland Bight and their efforts at enforcing existing laws, who held the spotlight. The video conference was very successful, and is probably a harbinger of how many meetings in the future will be held.

UNESCO is a robust organization, and it is my opinion that Jamaica could benefit much more from its membership, especially in the fields of natural science, social science, culture and communications. I expect that after this meeting, the suite of ‘wise practices’ we agreed upon will be widely discussed, and maybe we can incorporate more of them in our coastal zone management efforts in Jamaica.

Peter Espeut

Peter Espeut is a sociologist and Executive Director
of an Environment and Development NGO.

Extracted from The Jamaica Gleaner, 9 December 1998
Copyright The Gleaner Company Limited, all rights reserved.

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