Recognizing the strong interaction between ocean health and human health

The interactions between the ocean on one side and human health and well-being on the other are multiple and complex. Until recently the social sciences and the public health communities focused primarily on the negative impacts of the oceans and seas on human health (e.g. weather events and coastal disasters), while the marine biology/marine science communities traditionally focused on the many potential benefits (e.g. healthy foods, novel drugs, etc.) and potentially negative environmental impacts (e.g. red tides, exotic species, etc.) of ocean-human interaction.

But the dynamics are beginning to change: there is increasing recognition that the ‘health’ of our seas and ocean is inextricably linked to human health and wellbeing in a number of other, often quite complex ways. According to Dr. Lora Fleming, 2015 recipient of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission's Anton Bruun Medal, fostering pro-environmental behaviors to restore and preserve marine environments would generate enormous potential, such as providing insights into new areas and avenues for global cooperation, and addressing collaboratively the local and global challenges of our interactions with the ocean, both now and in the future.

Through the concept of Ocean Literacy, Sea Change – a three-year European Commission project – aims at creating a deeper understanding among European citizens of how their health depends on the health of our ocean. The idea is to go beyond education and traditional advertising. These can be effective in creating awareness, but numerous studies document that providing information, by itself, rarely changes behavior. Sea Change seeks to deliver awareness-raising initiatives with the aim of promoting behavioural change that will benefit the entire society.

The IOC, in collaboration with the Education Sector of UNESCO contributes to Sea Change by promoting an enhanced understanding of the role of ocean science to support international ocean governance and a more sustainable use of our ocean and seas. These are key to healthier lives and more well-being.

Watch Sea Change’s latest video release below and learn more about the interactions between ocean and human health.