Regional State of the Coast Report

Western Indian Ocean

image of Regional State of the Coast Report

The Regional State of Coast Report for the western Indian Ocean (WIO) is the first comprehensive regional synthesis to provide insights into the enormous economic potential around the WIO, the consequential demand for marine ecosystem goods and services to match the increasing human population, the pace and scale of environmental changes taking place in the region and the opportunities to avoid serious degradation in one of the world’s unique and highly biodiverse oceans.



Aesthetic, cultural and spiritual services from coastal and marine environments

The interaction between human culture and the coastal and marine environment in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region has over time produced unique cultural products, practices and cultural influences. Several historical and archaeological sites exist, some attached to the region’s rich maritime history, with slave trade as an important component. Evolution of cultures over the years (Seland 2014) provide people with a range of heritage values, cultural identities and certain forms of spiritual services (UNESCO 2003). Some of these landscapes have also attracted significant tourism due to their aesthetic and historical value. Equally important are traditional knowledge systems and institutions, some of which are given anecdotal or mythical reference, yet which illustrate existence of customary systems of resource management and local people’s understanding as well as appreciation of ecosystem functioning (Cinner and Aswani 2007, Masalu and others, 2010). Marine resources, either used for cultural transactions or for direct consumption, are also part of the cultural heritage associated with the ecosystem, providing a range of benefits for the sustenance of coastal livelihoods. Certain historical sites and landscapes have however suffered from poor management (Duarte 2012), owing to factors that include changing value systems and physical intrusion, calling for concerted management efforts. At the same time, while some of the intangible heritage in the WIO region remains quite vibrant and dynamic, others are declining in cultural significance (Cinner 2007, Sunde 2013). Integration of customary systems in the management of resources is indicative of the region’s desire to support a holistic approach to management. This chapter presents and discusses some of the services derived from cultural products and practices in the WIO region and their significance in the management of the coastal environment.


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