The diversity and productivity of marine ecosystems are important to human survival and well-being. These habitats provide us with a rich source of food, medicine and income, and support species that serve as animal feed, fertilizers for crops, additives in foods and cosmetics. Hence, sustainability of these fragile ecosystems should be our primary concern. It is now well known that increased human activities such as fishing, shipping, coastal development, pollution and introduction of exotic species have caused considerable damage and pose a serious threat. Already 30% of the world's coral reefs have been severely damaged, and further 60% may be lost by 2030. The decline of populations of larger predatory fish species due to overfishing and destruction of spawning/breeding grounds is a critical factor in the deterioration of marine ecosystems. Scientists have warned that climate change could pose potential challenges to marine ecosystems. Species that are unable to adapt and/or migrate or compete with other species may face regional or global extinction. There are several natural phenomena such as El Nino, cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis, which cause serious damage to the ecosystem. The capacity of coastal ecosystems to regenerate after disasters and to continue to provide resources and services for humans can no longer be taken for granted, according to a recent report in Science.
It is obvious that health of the marine ecosystem is key to the survival of life on earth. In order to protect the ecosystems of the ocean, we need to build an integrated framework that transcends all relevant organizations and stakeholders. The objective is not only to save the ecosystems, but also to utilize the service opportunities provided by various resources. There are several such opportunities in the areas of food and medicine production, which could be advantageously utilized through frontier areas of science such as biotechnology, mariculture etc.
The idea of conducting an international symposium is to address these concerns, many of which are global in nature, but with varying magnitudes between one region to another. The Symposium, MECOS 09 would provide an excellent platform to discuss these issues to transform the challenges in to opportunities.