Integrated Beach Management: The materialization of paradise

In our imagination, beaches are synonymous with paradise, as I mentioned in the post “The beach: Public or private paradise?”. Fed by the media, this idea of ​​paradise is that beaches are intimate spaces with sun, sand, and sea where you can rest and have a pleasant time in the company of friends and family. For this idea of ​​paradise to materialize, the Integrated Beach Management framework is necessary.

Integrated Beach Management is a practice where people involved in public administration, beach ecology, coastal oceanography, environmental education, environmental engineering, beach cleaning services, and lifeguards work together. A person who dedicates themselves to beach management must have knowledge of all these aspects, although they do not necessarily have to be an expert in all of them; therefore, Integrated Beach Management relies on a multidisciplinary team.

Skipper and Lola enjoy the sunrise together on a pet-friendly beach in Rockport, Texas. Photo By Chris Hale

When visiting a beach, we look for a series of characteristics that are attractive to us: that it is clean; not very crowded, and, if it is, that there are relatively defined spaces in which we can feel comfortable with the people who accompany us, without other people invading our space; there are spaces for sunbathing away from ball play areas; that there are adequate signs to define spaces or risk situations; that there is room in the water for swimming; the presence of basic infrastructures, such as parking lots, toilets, and garbage cans. Finally, though sometimes controversial, some people like to be accompanied by their pets, even if the beaches in question are not pet-friendly.

All of these characteristics can be easily identifiable when arriving at the beach; a beach has one or more attributes that allow people to decide which beach to go to. In simple terms, all these elements are part of Integrated Beach Management and, although we do not necessarily know their technical terms as visitors, we enjoy their benefits.

Integrated Beach Management is a general framework of guides and tools that help each beach manager to identify and carry out actions that are necessary for each unique beach, depending on the land use that is required, the type of visitor it receives, the surrounding population, the degree of naturalness, and the tourist infrastructure it has.

Williams et al. (2016) mention that there are five types of beaches: urban, village, resort, rural, and remote. Urban beaches are assigned an urban land use, with a high degree of anthropization, and many of them are considered recreational areas for the population. The village beaches are located in small human settlements that are usually local tourist attractions and low population density. Resort beaches are those that are in front of tourist developments, for which the guests of these developments are the ones who visit them the most; they are spaces of intimate rest. Rural beaches are assigned rural land use where the population density is low and dispersed in the territory with its population nucleus no more than 5 km away. Finally, remote beaches are those that, due to their distant location and difficulty in access (50 km or more far from human populations ), few people can reach them, either by land or sea, or they must walk more than 1 km to do so.

For beach management to be effective, there must be a beach manager and a monitoring committee. The beach manager can be a local government agent, a hotel manager, a civil association, an organized neighborhood group, or an organized business group. The point is that this figure is recognized by the beach administration authorities in the country in question, and they should always work hand in hand with authorities, even when they do not take the lead in management. On the monitoring committee are stakeholders who have interests in the beach that, taking into account the local situation of the beach and, in the best cases, its relationship with the basin and other beaches, establish the management objectives, they make the means, the actions and the management scheme to be carried out.

Integrated Beach Management is a continuous, iterative, and adaptive process over time, so having the advice of experts in the field is always an excellent choice. The Ibero-American Beach Management and Certification Network (PROPLAYAS) is a network that brings together experts on beaches from academia, civil society organizations, enterprises, and the governments of the fourteen countries that comprise it. As you can see, management is more than a clean beach or with a lifeguard. It is the basis for the activities that take place there and the people who visit it to have a harmonious relationship. In the next post I will deal with the issue of beach certification schemes, as a step that helps to refine management, but which in no way replaces it.

“Beach” Photo by Foilman from

Author: Ulsia Urrea Mariño

I am a Ph.D. student at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in the Coastal and Marine System Science program, Master in Urban Studies at COLMEX, and Undergraduate in Sustainable Management of Coastal Zones at UNAM. My professional research lines are: the Mexican's beach management, the integral management of solid waste in coastal localities, anthropological analysis of fishers, examines on Mexican legislation on seas and coasts, the study of urban development since tourism and climate change points of view, and the Mexican ocean energy. The areas of work where I have developed my studies have been the North Mexican Pacific, The Gulf of Mexico, and The Mexican Caribbean Sea. I am also a documentalist and member of RICOMAR, IBERMAR, PROPLAYAS, Centro Tepoztlán Víctor L. Urquidi, and Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance networks.

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