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A sea of health

Throughout history, the seas and oceans have been one of humanity’s most important repositories of natural resources.

For centuries, coastal civilizations have used the sea to obtain food and to establish trade, but it has also been a source of traditional medicinal products and bioactive compounds, such as pigments, fragrances or even fuels which have been widely exploited in recent times. During the last few decades there have been numerous studies investigating the impact that humans and climate change are having on marine ecosystems and their resources, but few have linked the marine environment directly with human health. Consequently, a new line of research has recently emerged called "Oceans and Human Health" which aims to study the relationships between the health and well-being of the population and the goods and services provided by our seas and oceans. Such research sheds light on the way marine ecosystems provide a wide range of goods and services that are essential for human health and well-being, as well as generating a variety of potential health hazards which need to be kept under control through effective management.

Marine environments bring both health benefits and health risks. On the one hand, there are healthy seafood products, species from which new medicines can be produced, areas for relaxation and leisure, etc. On the other hand, in addition to the calamitous effects of extreme weather events, such as violent storms, or tsunamis, we are exposed to pollutants, toxins and pathogens - many of which are linked to human activity.

Photo: Lluís Mas-Blanch

 

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