A window of opportunity for integrated coastal management may exist in Panama at the beginning of the new century. The country emerged from a period of political instability in the 1990s and began the new century with full political control over its most important resource - the Panama Canal. A major institutional reorganization in the late 1990s merged a number of agencies with authority in the coastal and marine areas into the Panama Maritime Authority and expanded the responsibilities of the marine resource directorate to include marine and coastal resources. This reorganization occurred with the adoption of new legislation that clearly recognizes the importance of integrated coastal management (ICM). Concurrent with the formation of the Maritime Authority, the Legislature passed the General Environmental Law and created the National Environment Authority. Despite these positive developments, institutional change has been slow. Sectoral management of coastal resources continues. Interagency coordination remains deficient, and no formal coastal coordination mechanism exists. Legislation is contradictory and confusing, and the new laws only add to the confusion. As coastal environmental quality continues to degrade and conflicts between sectors increase, the marine and coastal directorate must strengthen its institutional role and take the initiative in the development of a meaningful ICM effort in Panama. This manuscript analyzes the evolution of Panamanian institutions and legal frameworks related to coastal areas and highlights themes that are ripe for future action.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Aquatic Science
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law