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close this bookParticipatory Methods in Community-based Coastal Resource Management - Volume 1 - Introductory Papers (IIRR, 1998)
close this folderCoastal communities living with complexity and crisis in search for control
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentCoastal communities
View the documentComplexity
View the documentCrisis
View the documentWho owns this sea?
View the documentCoastal resource management
View the documentCommunity-based coastal resource management


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 sea.