Legal and Management Classifications for Estuaries and Coasts

Tim Stojanovic, Sue Boyes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The world’s coasts, estuaries and nearshore seas are highly dynamic. This presents a challenge for classification systems, including social, economic and legal classifications. Indeed, each system of classification brings pitfalls of fixed standardisation from a particular perspective, and so we commend the other chapters in this treatise for developing an holistic perspective. Nevertheless, we contend that in order to speak of coasts and estuaries we need some idea of what we are referring to. Coasts and estuaries include the human activities and institutions which occur there, and systems of classification can help us deepen understanding about these. With increasing levels human activity and international commitments to nature conservation and sustainable development, many coastal nations have developed systems of management to address these issues. Whilst some coastal management is informal or bottom-up by civil society, much management effort is driven by complex legal frameworks which span the land-sea divide. Our overview outlines the key legal jurisdictions, principles and tools which are relevant to the coastal zone. The law plays a significant role to define the powers and duties of public and private organisations and individuals living and working in the coastal zone, including property, ownership, and public rights such as access or private rights for development. Legal systems in coastal nations vary, but we outline the basic categories of civil and customary law, giving examples from different coastal nations. The complexity of law and regulation has famously been described using a ‘horrendogram’. To help make sense of this legal complexity, we present a classification of key sectors of maritime activity. We also present a classification of the functional goals of management which can aid reflection about effective management. Finally, we review whether legislative and management regimes are fit for purpose or how they might need reform to achieve more sustainable futures
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTreatise on Estuarine and Coastal Science
EditorsDaniel Baird, Michael Elliott
Place of PublicationOxford
EditionSecond Edition
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-323-90798-9
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Publication series

NameReference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences


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