Mangroves cut across ecosystems, sectors, jurisdictions and governance regimes. While few countries have a specific mangrove law, many national and international regimes apply to or affect mangroves in some way. Marine and coastal law can protect mangroves as fish habitat and guardians of coastal integrity. Freshwater law can address pollution and allocate water resources. Mangroves can be found within protected areas or specially designated forests, while species of mangrove and species that live within mangroves can have protected species status. Land use planning, permitting and environmental impact assessment processes apply to activities that affect mangroves. Basic governance frameworks relating to institutional setup, rulemaking procedures, budgetary allocation, judicial systems and land and resource tenure are critical determinants of how, and how effectively, mangroves can be managed. Guiding norms and concepts from international law and national constitutions shape treatment of mangroves under applicable law.
Mangrove governance involves local and regional actors as well as national and international policymakers. Customary authorities and community groups play key roles, whether they are formally recognized in constitutions, legislation or contracts, or operate without formal legal backing. Legal pluralism—overlapping systems of customary, statutory, community and common law norms and practices—characterizes mangrove governance in many countries.