Since independence in 1903, Panama has constructed an interoceanic canal and oil pipeline, established a fishing fleet, built access roads to much of the Pacific shoreline, and developed mechanized agriculture on the Pacific coastal plain. The population of the capital and principal port, Panama City, has grown from 22,000 to more than 600,000 during the period from 1905 to 1980. These factors demand effective regulation of coastal resources by governmental institutions. The present situation is far from ideal. Structural changes in the institutions with jurisdiction in the coastal zone could avoid the irreversible degradation of these resources which are indispensable for the economy, ecology, public health, and beauty of Panama.