Welcome to The Marine Biologist magazine. We always strive to include interesting and illuminating material from all over the world and in this ‘Asia edition’ we hear from marine biologists in India, Sri Lanka and Japan – see below. Marine biologists are a diverse community, but does our focus on one realm mean we are more likely even than other scientists to stay in our salty ‘silo’? As Murray Roberts says on page 39, describing the new Lyell Centre, “we cannot do our best work as marine biologists in isolation”. Clearly, we need to maximize opportunities for collaboration at the boundaries of disciplines – a theme for a future edition, perhaps. Also in this edition: Pawel Burkhardt explores the origin of nervous systems, we dream of a digital ocean and discover resources such as a new plankton guide and an app to help tourists enjoy unfamiliar fish. Science and politics is rarely a harmonious mix, particularly when it comes to marine protected areas. The practical and moral case for the creation of large marine reserves in tropical shallow marine habitats is made (p. 16), and we look at a new book which questions the efficacy of marine reserves as a fisheries management tool (Reviews, p. 36). MBA members hail from many countries (currently 44), including India. I am delighted to hand this editorial over to the Secretary of the the Marine Biological Association of India (MBAI), Dr. K. Sunil Mohamed.
Guy Baker, Editor
With 3 million Indians directly and indirectly dependent on marine fisheries, knowledge of marine biology of the seas around India is of the utmost importance. India accounts for less than 0.25 per cent of the world’s total coastline; however, 171 million people live in India’s coastal districts (approximately 5 per cent of the world’s coastal population and 14 per cent of India’s total population). Therefore, it is not surprising that these coastal zones are witnessing increasing economic activity resulting in loss or degradation of critical marine habitats, overfishing and pollution, and the associated impacts on ecosystem services. On top of this, the coasts are adversely impacted by floods, cyclones and severe storms. According to recent estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels in India are expected to rise at the rate of 2.4 mm a year, and by 2050, the total increase may displace thousands of coastal people. This combination of natural and human forces and the uncertainties involved in their origins and impacts presents a major challenge to coastal people of India. In this scenario, the challenges in managing such complex ecosystems are enormous and there appear to be no ready answers. Looking to the future, the strength that India has in marine biology and allied sciences will stand her in good stead to minimize these impacts. Another asset that India has is the high biodiversity in her seas (see p. 19) which is already being targeted by researchers for novel drugs and chemicals. The high diversity in fished taxa and the inherently high regenerative capacity of tropical fish stocks may also be helping in sustaining India’s largely uncontrolled fisheries. Cross-learning from other developed and developing nations with similar situations and problems must be a way forward. With advice from marine biologists, the Government of India has brought into force a number of laws for the conservation of marine species and habitats. Indian marine scientists continue to bring evidence from the latest research to formulate new policies to help mitigate human impacts and allow damaged ecosystems to recover.
Dr. K. Sunil Mohamed, Secretary of the Marine Biological Association of India