The Ocean Decade—Opportunities for oceans and human health

Available on 23 April 2021

Human health is vulnerable to threats emerging from ecosystems that we inhabit. Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted this fact very starkly. More insidious global threats to human health include the increasingly overt consequences of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

As the largest connected ecosystem on Earth, the global ocean exerts a greater influence than any other on our climate and weather, affecting global food production and international trade. Much more importantly, human health is intricately linked to “ocean health.”

The United Nations has announced the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development from 2021 to 2030 ( Researchers working on BlueHealth and SOPHIE have joined forces to publish a position paper explaing how public health and medical professionals should embrace this timely opportunity to transform the way we interact with our seas.

In this paper, published in the May 2021 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, they call for a revitalized, inclusive endeavor to repair the damage done already and for protection of the seas so as to ensure that myriad benefits are available in the future.

The lead author of the paper, Prof Lora Fleming, said that “For us to make amends for the way we have negatively impacted on ocean ecosystems, we will need to bring together ocean researchers, health professionals, coastal communities and policymakers, as well as many other stakeholders, to work collectively on delivering a resilient, sustainable ocean that will bring about improvements in public health.”

Full citation

Lora E. Fleming; Michael Depledge; Timothy Bouley; Easkey Britton; Sam Dupont; Claire Eatock; Ruth Garside; Johanna J. Heymans; Paula Kellett; Josep Lloret; Bruce Maycock; Sabine Pahl; Catharina J. M. Philippart; Bethany R. Roberts; Torsten Thiele; Mathew P. White; Susanne Wuijts. The Ocean Decade—opportunities for Oceans and Human Health Programs to Contribute to Public Health. American Journal of Public Health 2021, 111 (5), 808–811. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2021.306229