Yáñez-Arancibia, A.; Day, J.W., and Reyes, E., 2013. Understanding the coastal ecosystem-based management approach in the Gulf of Mexico. In: Brock, J.C.; Barras, J.A., and Williams, S.J. (eds.), Understanding and Predicting Change in the Coastal Ecosystems of the Northern Gulf of Mexico, Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 63, pp. 244–262, Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749–0208.The Gulf of Mexico (GOM) is a shared ecosystem in which problems and solutions are a common responsibility among governments, primarily the United States and Mexico. Concepts about management of coastal systems suggest that GOM ecosystem-based management approaches should be coupled with ecological risk assessment and that quantitative modeling is a valuable tool for ecosystem-based management, which results in sound sustainable management. Sustainable management requires the consideration of a number of processes and issues. These include definition of ecological regions, description of processes controlling primary productivity, wetland restoration and coastal fisheries, and an understanding that pulsing is a fundamental characteristic of coastal systems, that climate change must be taken into consideration in management, and that environmental sustainability and socioeconomic development are strongly related. Throughout the 6,134 km of coastline stretching from Florida to Quintana Roo, there are several major geographic regions that include the warm-temperate GOM, the tropical GOM, and the Caribbean coast connected to the GOM. Within each geographic region, discrete complex systems can be defined as geographic/hydrological subregions, characterized by the interactions of geology, geomorphology, oceanography, climate, freshwater input, biogeochemistry, coastal vegetation, wildlife, estuary-shelf interactions, and human factors. We conclude: (a) system functioning should serve as a basis for sustainable coastal management; and (b) to sustain environmental and socioeconomic conditions, the GOM must be maintained as a healthy, productive, and resilient ecosystem. The challenge for future coastal management in the GOM should be towards an integration of coastal management with large marine ecosystem management.