Skip to main content

Oceans and Human Health

The ocean provides many goods and services for humans but can also pose human health risks. Our Working Group on Oceans and Human Health (2011-2013) assessed the complex and causal interconnection between the marine environment and human health and identified key research targets to build the necessary Ocean and Human Health research capability in Europe.  EMB is currently a partner in the European project SOPHIE, leading the delivery of a strategic research agenda for oceans and human health in Europe.


Policy Brief 8, Policy Needs for Oceans and Human Health (May 2020)



SOPHIE Strategic Research Agenda for Oceans and Human Health (March 2020)

News article on SOPHIE Strategic Research Agenda publication (March 2020)


Message from Bedruthan (March 2014)



Position Paper 19, Linking Oceans and Human Health: A Strategic Research Priority for Europe (December 2013)



Webinars and videos

EMB Science Webinar on Ocean and Human Health (February 2022)

Ocean Decade Virtual Webinar Series: Ocean and Human Health (October 2020)

SOPHIE Legacy Video "Oceans and Human Health: A research agenda" (August 2020)

Webinar on "How is our health linked to the ocean?" (June 2020)

SOPHIE Introduction Video "Seas, Oceans and Public Health in Europe" (June 2018)


Recent activity

Horizon 2020-funded Project SOPHIE


Human health benefits largely from the goods and services provided by the marine and coastal environment through, amongst others, the quality of air we breathe, the medicines we take and the food we eat. The ocean also offer economic and recreational opportunities which are important for our well‐being. Research has identified the restorative effects or psychological benefits for humans of proximity to aquatic environments. All of these benefits are threatened by human activities in the marine environment.

How we use the sea in the future will influence marine environmental processes to our benefit or detriment. The main question is, therefore, “How do we effectively manage the marine environment to improve human health?”

Our perceptions of the relationships between the marine environment and human health are limited and still relatively unexplored. Understanding the impacts of human activities and global environmental change on both marine ecosystems and human health, predicting or mitigating the risks, and identifying new resources and benefits will require an integrated approach, combining disciplines as disparate as physical oceanography, chemistry, genomics, epidemiology, psychology, humanities and social sciences.


  • Highlight the importance of the marine and coastal environment for the health and welfare of European citizen;
  • Identify the societal, environmental and scientific challenges linking human health and the marine environment and marine processes and the need for a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to addressing these challenges;
  • Review previous research and existing initiatives worldwide providing an overview of the state-of-the-art in relation to Oceans and Human Health;
  • Encourage the growth, development and facilitation of the Oceans and Human Health research capacity required to tackle the "real-world", inter and multi-disciplinary problems faced not only in Europe but also globally;
  • Identify strategic areas for Europe in the realm of Oceans and Human Health research related to marine ecosystems and to improve Europe’s competitiveness in this field;
  • Provide recommendations to guide European research in the medium term (to 2020) to build the interdisciplinary community required to address the challenges associated with a better understanding and management of the risks and benefits offered by European marine and coastal environment; and
  • Formulate recommendations to foster the process of policy formulation through improved knowledge transfer and exchange to allow decision makers to better manage the marine environment to improve human health. 


Related activities

  • The Oceans Ministerial Meeting and Conference 2017 on 7-8 September 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal
  • VLIZ Science Symposium: The Ocean and Human Health on 6 September 2017 in Ostend, Belgium
  • ECEHH Workshop on “Fostering sustainable environments for improving future health and wellbeing” on 3-4 December 2014 in Cornwall, UK
  • 2nd Marine NanoEcoSafety Workshop on 17-18 November 2015 in Palermo, Italy
  • EurOCEAN 2014 Conference on 7-9 October 2014 in Rome, Italy
  • 2nd Meeting of the Stakeholder Group for the Galway Statement on 11 June 2014 in Brussels, Belgium
  • Gordon Research Conference on Ocean and Human Health on 1-6 June 2014 in Maine, USA
  • Oceans & Human Health Conference on 20-21 March 2014 in Cornwall, UK
  • Paper launched at workshop on ‘Oceans and Human Health' co-organized by the European Marine Board and JPI Oceans on 22 May 2013 at European Maritime Day 2013, in Valetta, Malta



  • 26-27 September 2011, Brussels, Belgium
  • 30 June 2011, Brussels, Belgium
  • 11 April 2011, Brussels, Belgium



Chair: Michael N. Moore, Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) and European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH), UK

Working Group members:

Lora E. Fleming, European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH), UK
Philipp Hess, French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea (IFREMER), France
Angela Koehler, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), Germany
Lise Madsen, National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES), Norway
Vitor Vasconcelos, Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR), Portugal
Aldo Viarengo, University of Eastern Piedmont, Italy

Additional contributions from:

Craig Baker-Austin, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), UK
Nicholas Boase, European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH), UK
Michael H. Depledge, European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH), UK
David Lees, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), UK
Paul Leonard, University of Exeter, UK
Nicholas Osborne, European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH), UK
Richard Owen, University of Exeter, UK
Hans Pirlet, Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), Belgium
Mathew White, European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH), UK


Contact at European Marine Board Secretariat: Paula Kellett Email