Coastal communities are people living on the thin strip of land or
on the water along the fluctuating line where the sea meets the land. Trying to
otherwise define either this group of people or delimiting the resources upon
which they depend is an elusive task.
The coastal zone may be defined "ecologically" as the land area
influenced by the sea; politically by some arbitrary distance inland from high
tide level; or socially as the area occupied by people dependent on the sea for
livelihood. For any means except setting an arbitrary distance, the exact extent
of the coastal zone defies rigorous definition due to the interconnectedness of
ecosystems and human activities in this productive strip between land and sea.
In this chapter, aspects of the nature of the overall coastal
system, including people and their coastal environment, will be discussed. It is
dangerous to generalize but some aspects seem to be common enough to warrant
comment. Understanding the nature of the complex system can help the outsider
better work with people who are part of the system and may not themselves
consciously think about the overall system. This should help the outsider
contextualize work with coastal communities and "probe beneath the surface."
Common assumption: "Coastal resources" are living and non-living
things found below the surface of the sea.
Reality: Livelihoods of coastal communities also depend on
"terrestrial" resources for food or income.
Since terrestrial resources are essential for coastal communities
and they affect the health of, or the use of, marine resources, they are
considered by some to be "coastal resources" along with the living and
non-living resources in the