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SOPHIE - Seas, Ocean & Public Health in Europe

The European Commission funded SOPHIE, a research programme which helped protect the ocean, harness its health benefits, and reduce its risks by bringing together marine and environmental scientists with medical and social scientists, public health and other experts.

Project type:

Coordinated Support Action (CSA), BG-06-2017: Interaction between people, oceans and seas: a strategic approach towards healthcare and well-being.


30 Months (December 2017- May 2020)


2 million Euros


8 partners


European Centre for Environmental and Human Health, University of Exeter Medical School, UK


EMB role:

Leader of WP6: Building a Future Policy-Relevant Oceans and Human Health Research Effort in Europe










Background and Objective

The central aim of the Seas, Oceans and Public Health in Europe (SOPHIE) Coordination and Support Action (CSA) was to advance significantly the coordination of multidisciplinary research and training in Europe to better manage the risks and opportunities presented by the complex interactions between the marine environment and human health and wellbeing. In doing so, SOPHIE brought together researchers and practitioners from across two largely disparate communities: (i) the marine and maritime community; and (ii) the medical and public health community. SOPHIE created a platform for these communities to work together to better understand both the potential threats to human health from degraded marine environments and the opportunities for human health promotion from sustainable interactions with coastal or ‘blue’ environments. In doing so, SOPHIE built in Europe a coordinated community of researchers and practitioners within the relatively new and integrated meta-discipline of ‘Oceans and Human Health’ (OHH).

SOPHIE’s primary aims were to: a) deliver a clear, evidence-informed Oceans and Human Health Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) within the European context, based on extensive involvement by diverse stakeholders; and b) ensure that the structures needed to develop and implement this SRA are in place and will exist as a legacy beyond the life of the project.

These aims were achieved by:

  • systematic synthesis of the current evidence base
  • developing and coordinating a European community of OHH stakeholders - to join the community, join the LinkedIn group at
  • identification of innovative solutions to sustainably reduce risks and promote benefits
  • scenario modelling and horizon scanning
  • knowledge exchange through bespoke training and skills programmes
  • extensive outreach and communication activity to enhance European leadership and global cooperation in OHH research


An introductory video for the project can be found here, and a final legacy video from the project can be found here.

European Marine Board Role

EMB was leader of Work Package 6 “Building a Future Policy-Relevant Oceans and Human Health Research Effort in Europe” and also contributed to WP1, WP2 and WP3.

The main output of WP6 is a Strategic Research Agenda for Oceans and Human Health in Europe which was published on 30 March 2020. Resources to support communication about this Research Agenda, in a number of European languages, are available here.

The Strategic Research Agenda contents is heavily influenced by input from an Expert Group, who have met at two dedicated workshop. You can find out what took place at those workshops using the links below:

You can see the event report for Workshop 1 - Dublin, April 2018

You can see the event report for Workshop 2 - Ostend, January 2019 and also the news item here.

The final SOPHIE project Conference People, Health and the Ocean Conference which was scheduled on 30 March 2020 in Brussels was cancelled due to COVID-19. Instead, the SRA was launched at an online webinar held on 30 March 2020. Full details of what took place on the webinar can be found here.

In connection with WP2, EMB and SOPHIE produced a policy brief on the Policy Needs for Oceans and Human Health, which can be downloaded here. A set of cartoons have also be created especially for this publication by Jacob Bentley.

You can download the full set of images here.


A final projet webinar on How is our health linked to the ocean? was held on 8 June 2020. More details can be found here and you can rewatch the webinar here.

If you want to find out more about our work in oceans and human health, you can do so here. You can find the news release about this project here.

SOPHIE Partners

  • European Centre for Environmental and Human Health, University of Exeter Medical School, UK
  • Seascape Consultants, Belgium
  • National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
  • Stichting Deltares, The Netherlands
  • Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Millieu, The Netherlands
  • Breakaway Travel, Spain
  • Associacio SUBMON, Spain
  • European Marine Board, Belgium


Contact at European Marine Board Secretariat: Paula Kellett Email


SOPHIE is funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, grant agreement No 774567