Oceans and society: feedbacks between ocean and human health

Kirsty L. Nash*, Ingrid van Putten, Karen A. Alexander, Silvana Bettiol, Christopher Cvitanovic, Anna K. Farmery, Emily J. Flies, Sierra Ison, Rachel Kelly, Mary Mackay, Linda Murray, Kimberley Norris, Lucy M. Robinson, Jennifer Scott, Delphi Ward, Joanna Vince

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The concentration of human population along coastlines has far-reaching effects on ocean and societal health. The oceans provide benefits to humans such as food, coastal protection and improved mental well-being, but can also impact negatively via natural disasters. At the same time, humans influence ocean health, for example, via coastal development or through environmental stewardship. Given the strong feedbacks between ocean and human health there is a need to promote desirable interactions, while minimising undesirable interactions. To this end, we articulate two scenarios for 2030. First, Business-as-Usual, named ‘Command and (out of) Control’, focuses on the anticipated future based on our current trajectory. Second, a more sustainable scenario called ‘Living and Connecting’, emphasises the development of interactions between oceans and society consistent with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. We describe a potential pathway to achieving the ‘Living and Connecting’ scenario, centred on improving marine citizenship, achieving a more equitable distribution of power among stakeholders, and more equitable access to resources and opportunities. The constituent actions of this pathway can be categorised into four groups: (i) improved approaches to science and health communication that account for society’s diverse values, beliefs and worldviews, (ii) a shift towards more trusted relationships among stakeholders to enable two-way knowledge exchange, (iii) economic incentives that encourage behavioural changes necessary for achieving desired sustainability outcomes, and (iv) stronger regulations that simultaneously focus on ocean and human health. We contend that these changes will provide improved outcomes for both oceans and society over the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science. Graphic abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-187
Number of pages27
JournalReviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries
Issue number1
Early online date4 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Food system
  • Human development
  • Human health
  • Power and agency
  • Sense of place
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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