Integrated Coastal and Ocean Management

Integrated Coastal and Ocean Management (ICOM) aims to manage human activities in the coastal zone and ocean with a priority of maintaining the health of the coastal and ocean ecosystems. Integrated Management requires multiple stakeholders at the table, including government, community, First Nations and academia.

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Why do we need ICOM?

Although there are many factors at play; overlapping jurisdictions, numerous, and sometimes conflicting human activities, ecosystems, some fragile, often stressed, that provide important services, competing objectives of stakeholders, exacerbation of existing pressures by a changing climate and so on. Coastal regions must be managed as a whole.

ICOM relies heavily on integration. ICOM aims to do; link the layers that make up the coastal and ocean sector in order to achieve the sustainable use of coastal resources for social benefit while conserving and protecting coastal ecosystems and their services.

Examples of integration are: coordination of coastal policy between local, provincial, and federal governing bodies, inclusion of coastal waters into land-use planning, and integrating scientific research, public opinion, economic and environmental interests in decisions regarding the coast.

Goals of ICOM

• Resolution of resource use and coastal and ocean space conflicts

• An economy and social capital based on sustainable use of natural resources

• Environment conservation and protection 

Successful ICOM will result in a more ecologically resilient coastline and surrounding ocean area, better water quality, planning and management shared between local institutions and higher levels of government, with reduced conflict and increased cooperation. Additional results of successful ICOM include greater certainty for coastal industries, the resolution of resource use and space conflicts between stakeholders, and greater protection for coastal residents from storms and other climate change issues.

In order to have successful integrated coastal zone and ocean management, the components that are integrated in ICOM must work together like cogs in a machine. Some of the components of ICOM include marine spatial planning, ecosystem-based management, and initiatives working to realize integrated coastal zone and ocean management. Marine spatial planning (MSP) is a way to manage the use of marine space and the interactions between its uses. MSP is about analyzing and allocating parts of three-dimensional marine spaces to specific uses, to achieve ecological, economic, and social objectives that are usually specified through the political process. Marine spatial planning is a tool used in ecosystem-based Management.


Ecosystem-based management is the management of human activities so that ecosystems, their structure, function, composition, are maintained at appropriate temporal and spatial scales.

Marine spatial planning and ecosystem based management both use a network of marine protected areas to meet ecosystem objectives and conservation.

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