US Climate and Health Alliance

Healthy oceans, healthy people


A groundbreaking study released in the journal Nature last week underscored something many of us have long known to be true: around the world, human health is inextricably linked to the health of the oceans. When the oceans suffer – from threats like climate change and overfishing – people suffer too.This new study shows that a decline in fish populations poses significant risks for poor people in developing countries, where seafood is a crucial source of healthy protein and important micronutrients like iron, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and vitamins A and B12. Lack of access to these nutrients can have dire health consequences for fish-dependent populations. As the authors of this study note, “Deficiencies of micronutrients can increase risks of perinatal and maternal mortality, growth retardation, child mortality, cognitive deficits and reduced immune function.” As nations figure out how to feed and sustain a growing world population, a new priority has emerged: saving the oceans is no longer a conservation goal; it’s a critical way of ensuring food security worldwide.According to the United Nations, 795 million people do not have enough to eat. 460 million of these people live in major fish-dependent nations, countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, and Mozambique. These countries, the Nature study notes, are especially at risk from an ongoing decline in fish populations. “A perfect storm is brewing in the low-latitude developing nations,” the authors write. “This is where human nutrition is most dependent on wild fish, and where fisheries are most at risk from illegal fishing, weak governance, poor knowledge of stock status, population pressures and climate change.” The study finds as much as 10 percent of the world population, especially concentrated in these equatorial developing nations, could face micronutrient and fatty-acid deficiencies due to declines in the availability of fish.

Resource Type
The Hill
Resource URL
June 24, 2016
Organization Type
Health and Human Impacts
Dislocation/displacement/migration Food security
Climate and Environmental Impacts
Biodiversity Oceans
Behavior change
Advocacy Climate and environmental justice/health equity Vulnerable populations

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