How human health is ‘intimately linked’ to the health of the oceans

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New research highlights the nature of associations between ocean health and human health. Kier James Albarracin / EyeEm / Getty Images
  • The global ocean has faced unprecedented challenges due to human actions.
  • A new report says the health of the oceans is “intimately linked” to human health.
  • The report demonstrates these links and defines strategies to restore the damage done to the ocean.

In a new report, a team of researchers argues that the global ocean is “intimately linked” to human health. As a result, repairing man-made damage to the ocean will also benefit human health.

In the article, which appears in the American Journal of Public Health, the authors argue that restoring the health of the oceans should not only be the top priority of marine scientists, but also of the medical community and the general public.

The ocean covers 71% of the surface of the Earth and is crucial not only for environmental health but also for human health.

however, human actions have significantly damaged the health of the world’s ocean. The issues it is currently facing are as follows:

According to the researchers behind this article, in addition to damaging the health of the global ocean, these problems also have a negative impact on human health.

The team points out that the United Nations (UN) announced the Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development, covering 2021–2030. They argue that now is the perfect time for humanity to rethink its relationship with the world’s ocean.

According to Professor Sheila JJ Heymans of the European Marine Board and co-author of the article, “The United Nations Ocean Decade is a chance to transform the way we interact with the global ocean. Given how critical the link between human health and the health of the ocean is, and how important the ocean is to humans, achieving the goals of the Ocean Decade should not be left behind. to the ocean community alone. “

“By working with communities, decision-makers, businesses[es], and other stakeholders, we are driving the search for new, powerful and effective ways to drive radical change in public health. “

The researchers point out that swimming in polluted seas around the world is linked to more than 250 million cases respiratory diseases and gastroenteritis every year.

In addition, the indigenous peoples of the Arctic have been exposed to a build-up of organic pollutants. Coastal communities are exposed to indirect damage to their health when fish stocks collapse, restricting access to food and dramatically reducing livelihoods.

Researchers say responding to this damage to the health of the oceans will also improve people’s health. However, the oceans can also promote human health in their own right.

Scientists point out that seafood is a key source of omega-3 fatty acids, while extracts from marine organisms may play a role in medical treatments. In addition, “blue spaces” – locations near water – also have links to upgrades. physical and mental health.

Researchers say that because of this relationship between ocean health and human health, concerns for ocean health should extend beyond marine scientists.

As part of the research initiative, the Seas, Oceans and Public Health in Europe Project (SOPHIE), which receives funding from the European Union, has identified three areas where different stakeholders can work together. These are:

  • sustainable seafood for healthy people
  • biodiversity, biotechnology and medicine
  • blue spaces, tourism and well-being

Above all, the authors stress the need to tackle social injustices related to the health of the oceans.

According to Professor Lora Fleming of the University of Exeter and first author of the report, “The devastating COVID-19 pandemic, climate and other environmental changes and the perilous state of our seas have made it clear that we share a only planet with a single global ocean.

“Our moral compass aims to address the myriad threats and potential opportunities we encounter by protecting and providing for everyone – rich and poor – while learning to support all ecosystems.”

If collaboration between multiple communities of people with a relationship to the oceans is possible, then researchers believe significant positive change could occur.

These identified approaches include replacing plastics with natural marine products, using renewable marine energies instead of fossil fuels, ensuring resupply of fisheries and restoring biodiversity by promoting marine protected areas (MPAs).

Collaboration with local communities can also help ensure that MPAs are effective in limiting overfishing.

According to co-author Dr. Easkey Britton, marine social scientist and member of the SOPHIE project, “the failure of some MPAs, in Europe and elsewhere, is often the result of exclusionary conservation with inadequate inclusion and a lack of significant engagement with local communities. communities with traditional ecological knowledge in decision-making processes – from the initial planning stages and throughout the ongoing management of MPAs.

For researchers, the United Nations Ocean Decade is a chance to instill pro-environmental behavior in individuals and communities and to realign ocean governance around local concerns.

As Professor Fleming and her co-authors state, “The personal significance of the challenges communities face and the sense of personal vulnerability can generate greater awareness and create commitment.

“Provide [local] practical solutions can foster sustainable actions, especially when supported by higher-level national and international policies and regulatory frameworks. “

While the team makes it clear that holistic and systemic change is needed to restore the health of the oceans and, therefore, human health, they also suggest actions that individuals can take.

According to Dr. Britton, “Understanding how and why the ocean and human health are intimately interdependent means recognizing that all of our actions have an impact on the future health of the planet and our communities.

She said MNT: “Building a community around the challenges we face and the solutions we need is the most important thing. For anyone who wants to act, we are stronger together. Find your staff – join an existing ocean cause, campaign or organization that is addressing the issue that matters most to you and engage your own skills and strengths in the work we need to do to restore our global ocean. “

“There are many incredible citizen science opportunities where you can be on the front line to monitor the health of the oceans while deepening your connection to the ocean. And use your power as a citizen, making the ocean your main voting problem. “

– Dr Easkey Britton

For Professor Heymans, people can also make everyday choices that make a difference.

These include:

  • reduce plastic consumption and recycle more
  • cleaning local streets to prevent plastic from entering storm drains and the ocean
  • reducing ocean acidification by using public transport and avoiding eating meat, two factors that reduce a person’s carbon footprint

For co-author Dr Sam Dupont, a marine expert from the SOPHIE Project, reducing our carbon footprint is key to preventing damage to the oceans from happening in the first place.

“For the ocean, as for our own health, prevention is always better than treatment. The impacts of climate change and ocean acidification are increasingly important, and as a society we should work towards reducing CO2 emissions (as well as other environmental pressures) to avoid further pressures on the environment. the near future.

“It means adapting our way of living, of consuming, of eating, but also of voting. We must be the change, but also accept the changes to come. “

About Hector Hedgepeth

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