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The relationship between marine ecosystems and the health of people

Although the intake of fish reports benefits for human health, the increase in maritime pollution in recent decades, mainly due to spills of heavy metals such as methylmercury from metallurgical industries and factories, are causing marine ecosystems to integrate and bioaccumulate these pollutants in the food chain.

Humans, as the last link in the food chain, ingest organisms contaminated with methylmercury. If this intake is continued for a long time and in high amounts, it can lead to long-term problems, since mercury is accumulated in the brain and can cause neurological disorders.

Source: Deposiphotos

Another major pollutant in marine ecosystems is plastic, which has been dumped into the sea in recent decades.

Although the effects of ingesting microplastics on human health are still under investigation, it is not ruled out that they can cause long-term pathologies in people.

Added to marine pollution is the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of habitats due to certain fishing gear (Figure 6) and some tourist activities at sea. This loss of biodiversity indirectly affects people's health, since, among other things, marine Omega 3 stocks decrease. In addition, some fish such as  sardines or anchovies have less Omega 3  due to the changes that are taking place in their diet (plankton) in relation to climate change.

In this context of promoting a healthy lifestyle and respectful of the environment, it is important to consume local fish caught in a sustainable way.

Furthermore, the alteration of marine ecosystems entails the loss or degradation of blue spaces, a fact that makes it impossible to practice healthy activities such as swimming or snorkeling and, therefore, a natural therapeutic possibility is lost

Figure 6. Preserved graffiti background  (A) and impacted by fishing (B) Source: Montserrat Demestre
Source: Lluís Mas Blanch

For these reasons, the final objective of the Oceans and Human Health Chair is to disseminate and make people aware that:

  • Protecting biodiversity is protecting our health
  • The health of seas and oceans is also our health
  • It is necessary to promote the conservation of the fishing resources of the marine ecosystem as a source of health: Blue Health!
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