Coastal Waters of the World: Trends, Threats, and Strategies

Coastal Waters of the World: Trends, Threats, and Strategies

by Don Hinrichsen, Stephen Olsen

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Coastal Waters of the World: Trends, Threats, and Strategies by Don Hinrichsen

Nearly 60 percof the world's population lives and works within 100 miles of a coast, and even those who don't are connected to the world's oceans through an intricate drainage of rivers and streams. Ultimately the whole of humankind is coastal. Coastal Waters of the World is a comprehensive reference source on the state of the world's coastal areas. It focuses on the tremendous pressures facing coastal areas and the managemsystems and strategies needed to cope with them. Don Hinrichsen explores the origins and implications of three related issues: the overwhelming threats to our coastal resources and seas from population and pollution; the destruction of critical resources through unsustainable economic activity; and the inability of governments to craft and implemrational coastal managemplans. Introductory chapters presa concise summary of our coastal problems, including coastal habitat degradation and the fisheries crisis, along with a discussion of better managemoptions. Three case studies of successful coastal governance focus on some of the problems and bring to life potential solutions. Following that are regional profiles that provide detailed information on the main population, resource, and managemchallenges facing each of the world's thirteen major coastal waters and seas. The book ends with a realistic and practical agenda for action that can be implemented immediately. Safeguarding these complex, interlinked ecosystems is humanity's mchallenging managemjob. Coastal Waters of the World will help raise our awareness of coastal area concerns and provide a constructive contribution to the ongoing debate over how to manage these ever-changing areas, both for ourselves and for future generations. It will serve as a valuable reference tool and an up-to-date resource for policymakers, managemspecialists, and students interested in sustainable coastal governance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781597268431
Publisher: Island Press
Publication date: 03/19/2013
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 298
File size: 19 MB
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About the Author

Don Hinrichsen is Contributing Editor to Amicus Journal and People and the Planet. He is also a United Nations consultant specializing in environment and population issues.

Don Hinrichsen is Contributing Editor to Amicus Journal and People and the Planet. He is also a United Nations consultant specializing in environmand population issues.

Read an Excerpt

Coastal Waters of the World

Trends, Threats, and Strategies

By Don Hinrichsen, Stephen Olsen


Copyright © 1998 Don Hinrichsen
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-59726-843-1


Coastal Population Growth

The Ultimate Threat

Throughout much of the world, coastal areas are overdeveloped, overcrowded, and overexploited. Coastal waters and bays are often horribly polluted with untreated (or partially treated) municipal, industrial, and agricultural wastes. Rivers bring in more pollutants, including organic chemicals and heavy metals, along with increasing loads of sediment. Rich coastal ecosystems, such as estuaries, salt marshes, and mangrove swamps, have been decimated. Figure 1.1 summarizes some of the main threats to the world's coastlines by region, including population density. The dark lines along the coasts represent areas under stress from development-related activities. More than half of the world's coastlines suffer from severe development pressures (WRI 1995). Globally, little is being done to manage the crisis of our coasts.

Underlying the crisis are escalating human numbers and needs. Over 50 percent of the world's population—some 3.2 billion people—already live along a coastline or within 200 kilometers of one (Hinrichsen 1994; Deichmann 1996). Future population projections indicate that by 2025, 75 percent of the world's population, or 6.3 billion people, could reside in coastal areas—500 million more people than the current global population (Hinrichsen 1996).

Using new demographic techniques, including GIS (Geographical Information Systems) technology, demographer Uwe Deichmann and his colleagues at the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis (NCGIA) at the University of California at Santa Barbara were able to calculate population densities for each major region of the world (Deichmann 1996). The population density maps reproduced in this and later chapters (see figure 1.2) graphically illustrate that the majority of the world's people are concentrated in coastal areas and along major river valleys (e.g., the Gangetic Plain in India).

Much has been made of the world's exploding population, but where people live and work is a more important demographic indicator than basic growth rates. Population distribution gives a clear picture of population stress on a country's resource base. It also allows for the development of more rational management plans, especially in terms of future infrastructure needs, crucial services, and the provision of jobs. The global database assembled at NCGIA contains over 19,000 administrative units for some 217 countries (Tobler et al. 1995). In most cases, data are available for the smallest enumerated areas: local districts or counties. Such disaggregated data can be used to pinpoint areas of dense human populations. It should also motivate governments to design better urban planning systems, including zoning measures that regulate industrial, commercial, and residential development and minimize negative impacts on the environment.

In 1995, the World Resources Institute (WRI) in Washington, D.C., issued an indicator brief entitled Coastlines at Risk: An Index of Potential Development-Related Threats to Coastal Ecosystems. In addition to Deichmann's population density data, the WRI analysis includes four other basic indicators: cities, major ports, road density, and pipeline density (WRI 1995). The world map included in the WRI analysis and reprinted here (figure 1.3) indicates that half of the world's coastlines are already suffering from severe development impacts. (More detailed regional maps are included in the chapters on the Baltic and North Seas, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia.)

What the population data in figure 1.3 underscore is that in virtually every major region of the world, dramatic population shifts, mostly from in-migration, have fed the influx of people into coastal areas, especially municipalities. With coastal urbanization has come rapid industrial and commercial development. The rampant and often unplanned growth of coastal areas, in turn, has undermined the capacity of national governments to manage remaining resources on a sustainable basis.

The movement of people from the hinterlands to coastal areas is nothing new. It has been going on since the Middle Ages, when Europe's coastal cities became centers for international trade and commerce. As we approach the millennium, however, the mass movement of people from the interior to coastal urban areas has become one of the dominant demographic trends of the late twentieth century, clearly visible in developed and developing regions alike.

Since 1980, population growth rates have been dropping steadily throughout much of the developing world, with a few exceptions such as sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. Southeast Asia and Latin America had annual growth rates of 3 percent or above during the 1950s and 1960s. Today, both Southeast Asia's and Latin America's average population growth rates stand at 1.9 percent. In 1960, Thai women, on average, had nearly 6 children over the course of their reproductive lives. Today they average 2.2. Brazil's and Indonesia's total fertility rates—the average number of children a woman is likely to have over the course of her reproductive life—also dropped significantly: from an average of nearly 6 children per woman in 1960 to just under 3 in 1996 (Ehrlich 1990; Sadik 1993, 1995, 1996). Better maternal and child health care and access to reproductive health and family planning services have made the lower rates possible.

In most areas of the world, population growth and fertility levels continue to fall. But the world's population continues to increase because of the sheer momentum of human numbers. For example, although China's growth rate—now at 1.1 percent a year—is falling rapidly, the country's massive population base (1.2 billion) still translates into an extra 13 million people a year.

In the developing world, coastal areas harbor many of the most rapidly developing towns and cities. These cities are turning into economic hothouses, responsible for energizing economies and "growing" the bulk of new jobs. The 1970s and 1980s heralded the emergence of "primate cities," cities containing a preponderance of infrastructure, investment, services, and skilled workforce. Many of these primate cities are coastal, historic centers of trade and commerce that have experienced rapid economic development over the past four decades, especially as subsistence economies have been shoved aside by modern, interconnected market economies.

Rushing to the Coast: China

When Xiao Sun came to Shanghai in 1990, at the age of fifteen, she had only the clothes on her back. She came searching for a better life than the one she had left in a poor farming village in Jiangsu Province. An attractive girl, with limited education, she took a job as a nanny with a university professor's family.

Sun considers herself one of the lucky ones. She impressed her employer with her native intelligence and boundless capacity for work. After a few years, at nineteen, she married the professor's eldest son. She now lives a comfortable life in China's largest metropolis and vows to make sure her own child has advantages she did not. "I will never go back to my village to live," she affirms. "There is nothing for me or my family in rural China. There are few opportunities to make a better life. The future is here."

The overwhelming majority of Chinese—94 percent—live in the eastern third of that country. Of China's 1.2 billion people, over 677 million (56 percent) reside in thirteen southeast and coastal provinces and two coastal municipalities, Shanghai and Tianjin. Along much of China's 18,000 kilometers of continental coastline, population densities average over 600 people per square kilometer. In megacities like Shanghai they exceed 2,000 people per square kilometer (Tien et al. 1992).

Out of China's 467 cities with municipal status (as of 1990), 305 are coastal (China's ... Country Report 1992). Many of those cities seem to be growing at more rapid rates than cities in the interior of the country. The country's official urban population jumped from 135 million in 1980 to 214 million by 1990, an increase of around 8 million a year. China's coastal cities are growing at an average rate of around 4.7 percent a year, enough to double their populations in fourteen years (Tien et al. 1992). Between 1982 and 1990, Shanghai's population increased by 13 percent. All but 5 percent of that growth was due to in-migration from the countryside. China's largest city now has around 3 million migrant workers, most of them living in the poorer areas of the city in makeshift housing.

According to Chinese demographer Tu Ping, most of the growth of coastal populations is due to in-migration from the interior of the country not natural increases. City dwellers in China tend to have fewer children (usually one) than their counterparts in the countryside (who average two to four, and even higher in some regions). But nearly 100 million Chinese are thought to have moved from the poorer provinces in the central and western regions to coastal areas in search of better economic opportunities for themselves and their families. At any given time, somewhere between 20 and 40 million Chinese are on the move, a population equal to that of Spain. The bulk of this large, "floating population" is concentrated in coastal provinces, precisely those areas with the highest economic growth rates.

In Guangzhou the city's floating population accounts for 45 percent of the total. "These migrants who move to cities without any planned arrangement have become an important force for urban development," claims Yukun Wang, an associate professor at the Development Research Centre of the State Council of China. "In Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and other cities and towns, authorities have adopted measures allowing peasants to settle in their cities after paying fees for urban infrastructure construction," he adds. "This practice is in fact an official recognition of population migration."

Since most of China's economic growth is concentrated in coastal provinces, migrants will continue to swell the population of coastal towns and cities. The country's demographic dilemma is that it can no longer keep up with such massive and rapid population shifts. Without comprehensive development and management strategies in place, China's coastal cities may choke on their own success. (See "China's Floating Population," p. 149, for more on this subject.)

Coastal Towns and Cities

High population growth rates in the countryside, poor living conditions, and limited economic opportunities fuel the migration of people from rural to urban areas. As hubs of economic activity, coastal towns and cities seem to be exploding everywhere. They continue to draw migrants out of the countryside like ants to sugar. This concentration of people and economic activity results in lopsided development. But few governments have been successful in promoting a more balanced distribution of population and resources.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the transition from largely rural societies to largely urban ones took place over the course of three decades. In 1950, most Latin Americans lived in the countryside. By 1980, over half were living in towns and cities. Many urban areas grew by 4.5 percent a year during that period, doubling their populations every fifteen years or less (Gilbert 1900).

In some countries the pace of urban growth has been startling. By 1985, three out of every four residents of Caracas, Venezuela, over forty-five years of age, were born outside the city. Nearly 40 percent of Venezuela's population now lives on only 2 percent of its land area, the north-central coastal zone around Caracas. This area contains three-quarters of the country's industries and accounts for 61 percent of the gross national product and 40 percent of all fixed investments (Nieto 1993).

By the year 2010, the coastal zone from Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo, Brazil, is expected to be one large, contiguous urban area bulging at the seams with some 40 million people (Sadik 1993). A similar process is taking place along Chile's coast between Valparaiso and Concepción. This region already contains 75 percent of the country's population—10.5 million people—on only 15 percent of its land area.

Southeast Asia's coastal cities are also growing more rapidly than those in the interior. Jakarta, Manila, and Bangkok, for example, grew by around 4 percent a year during the 1980s. If present trends hold, by the year 2000 Jakarta will have over 13 million people, Manila over 11 million, and Bangkok 11 million—double their 1985 populations (Chapman 1992).

Bangkok, which already contains over 10 percent of Thailand's total population, has the greatest concentration of universities, hospitals, doctors, industries, banks, telephones, and cars in the country. It now generates 45 percent of the country's wealth, handles 95 percent of all imports and exports, and boasts an average per capita income over twice that of the rest of the country (Chapman and Baker 1992).

The Developed World

The forces at work in the developing world also account, in large measure, for the explosion of coastal towns and cities in the developed world. Historic patterns of economic development that fueled the first industrial revolution and transformed coastal cities into international centers of trade and commerce have been augmented since the end of the Second World War by a massive population shift from the hinterlands to coastal areas. Millions of middle-class families now have significantly more disposable income and more leisure time to enjoy the fruits of their labors; seacoasts, with their boundless economic opportunities and better quality of life, increasingly are viewed as preferred places to live, work, play, and retire.

In the United States, 55–60 percent of Americans (around 156 million) now live in 772 counties adjacent to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes (Population Reference Bureau 1993). The Washington, D.C.–based Population Reference Bureau reports that between 1960 and 1990 coastal population density in the United States increased from an average of 275 to nearly 400 people per square kilometer. In 1990, the most crowded coastline in the United States, stretching from Boston south through New York and Philadelphia, to Baltimore and the District of Columbia, had over 2,500 people per square kilometer. Another 101 coastal counties had population densities exceeding 1,250 per square kilometer (Culliton et al. 1990).

Florida, which is almost entirely coastal, is projected to have more than 16 million residents by 2010, an increase of over 200 percent from its 1960 level of 5 million. South Florida (the area south of Lake Okeechobee), which had a 1990 population of 6.3 million, is expected to have 15 to 30 million people by 2050. Similar dramatic increases are projected for California and Texas (Culliton et al. 1990).

The five states with the greatest rise in population are all coastal: California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Virginia (Population Reference Bureau 1993). By the year 2025, nearly 75 percent of Americans are expected to live in coastal counties. Coastal counties already contain fourteen of the country's twenty largest conurbations (see Table 1.1).

Japan transformed itself from a largely rural and noncoastal nation into an overwhelmingly urban and coastal one within two decades. In 1950, Japan's 83.2 million inhabitants were dispersed throughout the country, with nearly half living in farming households. By 1970 most Japanese were living in urban areas, the majority of them in the Pacific Coastal Belt, which extends from Tokyo southwest through the Seto Inland Sea to the northern part of the island of Kyushu. As early as 1970 the national census revealed that over 53 percent of the population lived in "densely inhabited districts" that occupy 1.7 percent of the country's land area, mostly in the Tokyo-Nagoya-Osaka region (Chapman and Baker 1992). Population densities in this crowded region average over 11,500 per square kilometer.


Excerpted from Coastal Waters of the World by Don Hinrichsen, Stephen Olsen. Copyright © 1998 Don Hinrichsen. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Page,
PROLOGUE - The Kuna Indians of Panama,
INTRODUCTION - We Are All Coastal,
CHAPTER 1 - Coastal Population Growth,
CHAPTER 2 - Coastal and Fisheries Resources in Danger,
CHAPTER 3 - Managing Coastal Areas Sustainably,
CHAPTER 4 - The Baltic and North Seas,
CHAPTER 5 - The Black Sea,
CHAPTER 6 - The Mediterranean Sea,
CHAPTER 7 - The Pacific and Atlantic Coasts of North America,
CHAPTER 8 - The Wider Caribbean,
CHAPTER 9 - Latin America,
CHAPTER 10 - The South Pacific,
CHAPTER 11 - The Northwest Pacific,
CHAPTER 12 - Southeast Asia,
CHAPTER 13 - South Asia,
CHAPTER 14 - The Arabian Gulf,
CHAPTER 15 - The Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden,
CHAPTER 16 - East Africa,
CHAPTER 17 - West Africa,
CHAPTER 18 - A Future for Coastal Seas,

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