A new paper unpacks the confusion surrounding the term “ocean health”. It calls for a wider definition of the term in order to move forward with measures that can restore a healthy ocean and protect human health and well-being. Photo: Yi Chun Chen/Unsplash

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OCEAN HEALTH

Amid policy disagreements, the oceans continue to suffer

No one agrees on what a healthy ocean looks like. That is bad news in a time when tough decisions on conservation are needed

Story highlights

  • Oceans and the vital services they provide to human societies are under extreme pressure
  • A lack of consensus on what makes an ocean healthy hinders restoration efforts
  • Understanding the broader social components of our relationship with oceans is necessary to restore a healthy ocean and safeguard human health

UNHEALTHY DEFINITIONS: No matter where in the world we live, our lives are directly affected by the health of our oceans. But our oceans are sick, and have been for a while.

So what’s keeping them from bouncing back to full health? It’s partly down to no one agreeing on what a healthy ocean looks like, making it hard to settle on the best course of action.

Although there are several accepted ways of measuring ocean health, they each have a different focus. None get to grips with the intricacies of how human health and well-being are linked to and influence the preservation of these giant bodies of saltwater.

A wider definition

In a perspective paper recently published in One Earth, centre researcher Thorsten Blenckner together with an international team of colleagues unpack the confusion surrounding the term “ocean health”.

They call for a wider definition of the term in order to move forward with measures that can restore a healthy ocean and protect human health and well-being.

Only with a clear ocean health concept together with transdisciplinary research we can restore healthy oceans.

Thorsten Blenckner, co-author

Tough decisions to be taken

Current understandings used to guide policies to protect ocean health only partially capture the broader social components of our relationship with the ocean.

“There are tough decisions to be taken,” says Blenckner.

“Do we actively intervene with controversial conservation measures to stop coral reefs bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef? We can only make these kinds of decisions when we agree on a definition and a target of a healthy ocean that goes beyond jobs and livelihoods to integrate ethical values, human health and well-being, along with traditional marine ecosystem services.”

Link to publication

Citation

Franke, A., Blenckner, T., Duarte, C.M., et.al. 2020. Operationalizing Ocean Health: Toward Integrated Research on Ocean Health and Recovery to Achieve Ocean Sustainability. One Earth, Perspective, Vol. 2, Issue 6, P557-565, June 19, 2020

Link to publication

For more information about the study, please contact co-author Thorsten Blenckner:

Thorsten Blenckner's research focus is on whole ecosystem processes and multiple stressors, the complexity of for example the Baltic Sea ecosystem

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