Since antiquity, humans have lived adjacent to the sea, utilizing marine resources for food, medicine, decoration, and raw materials. Today’s coastal ecosystems are stressed from dense human populations and burgeoning development pressures at the interface of land and sea. At the turn of the millennium, two-thirds of the world's population lived within 240 miles of a seacoast, while over half the world's population occupied a coastal strip 120-miles wide, constituting only 10 % of the Earth's land surface. Migration trends indicate that the number of people living within 60 miles of coastlines increased by 35% from 1995 to 2005. Associated changes in land use and land cover in coastal regions have escalated pollution, transportation, and tourism, with devastating effects on the quality of coastal and oceanic environments and their resources. In 2008, global export fish commodities were valued at US$ 65.4 billion and for all fishery products, US$ 102.7 billion, feeding the human population but depleting fish populations. Human impacts on ecosystems are threatening to overwhelm Earth’s carrying capacity, as ecosystem relationships are degraded by the market economy: biodiversity has been reduced, species are endangered, and populations have declined from the strain of human activities and current consumption patterns.
Without changing human consumption and activity patterns with respect to land and marine use, coastal ecosystems will not be able to sustain future human population distributions and migration trends to the coast. Worldwide, human communities are already exposed to coastal threats posed by global warming, such as sea level rise and hurricanes. To preserve, utilize and sustain life at water’s edge, ecological theory and practice must be integrated in a way that renders the science understandable, both to resource users and regulators of human activities. In particular, research into the sustainability, conservation, and restoration of marine resources must inform viable policy options for land and marine use. Research can be implemented through education, communication, and community action that engages the public and mobilizes local efforts. Ecosystem-based and coastal management integrated across all sectors of human activity may help shift human patterns of consumption and industry impacting coastal ecosystems. This organized oral session aims to connect ecology, communities, and policy to promote collaborative marine governance and sustain coastal ecosystems for current and future generations.