Document Type

Research Report

Publication Date



Coastal and ocean management is a constantly evolving practice. For at least two decades, coastal communities around the world have been experimenting with new ways to control a multitude of activities in their urban and rural harbors. The number and diversity of Marine Protected Areas are growing, with an increasing focus on protecting integrated biological communities, rather than individual species of concern. The United States and Canada are each developing new, comprehensive ocean polices, looking to better integrate management functions at all levels of government.

All of these initiatives – from local to national - reflect some common truths about the state of the marine environment worldwide: the intensity of human disturbance in coastal and ocean resources is increasing. Fifty to 80% of the global population lives within 50 miles of the coast. Fisheries are in decline, while recreational boating, shipping, undersea cables, energy development and mineral extraction are on the rise. Science is slowly unraveling the complexities of marine ecosystem functioning, while on a parallel track technology is allowing exploitation of ocean resources further offshore, and in deeper waters, extending the reach of human impacts.

In response to these pressures, ocean managers worldwide are investigating new methods for equitably allocating the use of limited marine resources while protecting the integrity of the ocean ecosystem. Within this context, the Gulf of Maine Council for the Marine Environment sponsored an Ocean Zoning Forum in December 2002, to explore the current practice and new approaches to spatially explicit ocean use management.


Prepared for the Gulf of Maine Council for the Marine Environment.



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