Marine and coastal areas are vitally important to the health and well-being of coastal communities, and in particular to small island developing states (SIDS) which have relatively large coastal zone in relation to the available land mass. In a healthy condition, coastal ecosystems provide food, jobs, and income for coastal communities.
Fishing has long been the basis of coastal livelihoods and traditional cultures, often providing the sole source of animal protein. Beautiful beaches and dive sites attract tourists and bring employment and economic opportunities to communities. The coral reefs are also recognised for their critical functions in protecting coastlines from erosion, and damage from storm surges. These valuable goods and services support the economic development of coastal and island communities and give coral reef ecosystems an estimated global worth of US$30 billion each year.
As coastal populations grow, additional demands and pressures are placed upon the coral reef ecosystem often leading to resource degradation. (See Coral Reef Threats). However, coastal communities can be the key to successful coral reef management initiatives, leading the establishment of co-managed marine protected areas, and the development of action plans and management systems that combine traditional and modern knowledge and practices.