The EMECS concept developed in the mid-1980s when environmentalists, researchers and policymakers involved with the Chesapeake Bay realized the Bay restoration program was being implemented with little knowledge of the information, methods and results gained by other estuarine and enclosed coastal sea programs. Concurrently, Governor Toshitami Kaihara of Japan's Hyogo Prefecture had similar concerns while concluding a successful agreement among 17 Japanese jurisdictions for the environmental restoration of the nation's Seto Inland Sea. Kaihara sought to maintain the health of his region's principal coastal sea while networking with other researchers, educators and policy makers involved in the management of enclosed coastal sea environments.
"EMECS grew out of a common desire to learn from the experience of others and share what we learned for the benefit of environmental restoration programs throughout the world," said Bell.
Led by the late Dr. Ian Morris, former director of the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental and Estuarine Studies (now the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science), an international group was assembled to examine the strengths and weaknesses of similar estuarine and coastal sea projects. Dr. Morris and Governor Kaihara met for the first time in 1987, and from their initial conversations, the EMECS concept was born and ultimately institutionalized by the creation of the International EMECS Center founded by Governor Kaihara in Kobe. EMECS now supports a worldwide network concerned with preserving the health and environmental quality of the planet's enclosed coastal seas.
Bell hopes to make undergraduate education in the environmental sciences an important part of the conference's discussions.
"We have discovered that studying the environment is a great way to teach science to undergraduates," said Bell. "In order to prepare a new generation to tackle the nation's and the world's environmental problems, we have to emphasize education, not only for the public, but for undergraduates interested in becoming environmental scientists, educators and leaders."