Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Protecting aquatic coastal zone ecosystems

Population growth and unsustainable practices are increasingly threatening aquatic ecosystems. These systems are much more important to us than we realise when we consider only their ability to provide us with the immediate benefit of resources for human consumption.
Protecting aquatic coastal zone ecosystems
They also play a critical role in tourism as well as in coastal protection, as nurseries, in pollution and climate control and of course as part of our cultural heritage. Thus, their preservation through sustainable activity is of critical importance to us all.

The World Summit for Sustainable Development, or Earth Summit, in 2002 set a number of targets for sustainable activity. The ‘Integrating multiple demands on coastal zones with emphasis on aquatic ecosystems and fisheries’ (Incofish) project was developed to apply Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) to aid in achievement of targets related to sustainability of aquatic coastal zone ecosystems, particularly in developing countries. The project outcomes were numerous and relevant to researchers, policymakers, industry and consumers alike.

The researchers developed a database of catch data to resolve the increasing misperception regarding the health and abundance of fish species. They also created an electronic online atlas of population maps for a variety of aquatic organisms, elaborating preferred environmental conditions for key marine coastal species. Numerous enterprises expressed interest in including the Incofish maps in their commercial applications.

ICZM created a software tool facilitating selection of appropriate marine protection areas (MPAs) in the face of conflicting demands. In addition, they provided coastal managers with a tool for visualisation and analysis of fish, cash and labour flows to assist in better decision making and communication. Furthermore, they evaluated sustainable versus unsustainable coastal ecosystem management practices focusing on fisheries and geared toward increased application of sustainable ICZM.

Incofish partners created an innovative international seafood guide for mobile phone applications with a set of indicators to discourage the trade in juvenile fish (caught before they reproduce and thus decreasing fish populations). The guide was met with intensive media coverage and was distributed to national consumer agencies as well. Finally, the Incofish project produced a code of conduct for the ecotourism industry as well as 12 generic rules for good fisheries’ governance.

In summary, the Incofish project produced numerous and significant results geared toward enhancing sustainable practices in aquatic coastal zones. The outcomes should have important impacts at the governmental, industrial and consumer levels in terms of how we think about – and manage – coastal fisheries.

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