Brazilian legislation defines coastal zone as a national patrimony - the geographic space of interaction of air, sea and land formed by the counties directly influenced, but not necessarily by those located in the coastline; also included are those distant until 50 km from the coastline, holding activities of great impact for the coastal zone or its ecosystems. The definition includes also the territorial sea of 12 nautical miles. Coastal management is conducted by a national plan legally enforced, complemented by states and counties plans, and a coastal ecologic-economic zoning limited to small portions of the coastal zone. A resolution of the "Environmental National Council" defines as "permanent preservation areas", of very restricted use, coastal ecosystems as mangroves, sand dunes, and reproduction sites of wild fauna. One could expect that the Brazilian coast should be more protected and properly managed than other countries where a national management plan is lacking (Argentina) or where the guidelines exist but are not yet legally enforced (South Africa). Notwithstanding, we note today in Brazil an intensification of conflicts opposing small-scale vs. industrial fishermen; shrimp farming vs. mangrove crab harvesting; resorts installation vs. native communities; oil and gas activities vs. NGOs; and conflicts on environmental permit between federal and state governmental agencies. This paper evaluates the possible reasons for the failure of the complex legal suite available in Brazil and suggests that participatory management and concerted actions with relevant stakeholders are the key elements for the successful cases. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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