Located at the southern Brazilian coast, the Patos Lagoon estuary is bordered by the cities of São José do Norte and Rio Grande, which depend on a series of economic sectors associated with the nearby presence of the estuary and ocean, such as estuarine shrimp fisheries, small-scale ocean fisheries, tourism, port activities and associated industrial activities. Despite its environmental and socioeconomic importance, the Patos Lagoon estuary has suffered severe environmental disturbances mainly over the last three decades. This ongoing trend makes it a priority to develop an Integrated Coastal Management Plan for this area. Recent studies have demonstrated the environmental degradation of several coastal habitats, such as dunes, embayments and salt marshes. Most fisheries have experienced a marked decline, leading to a serious social crisis that has affected approximately 50,000 people directly or indirectly involved in the traditional activity. The growing poverty of small farmers and fishermen has placed increasing demands on local governments, which are struggling to manage conflicts between traditional and non-traditional sectors. This paper describes the objectives, criterions and expected results of an initiative for an ICZM program to be implemented in the estuary, as well as the main difficulties in a context of developing country. © 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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