Our planet’s blue heart: The interrelationships among human activity, oceans, seafood, and the public’s health

Tuesday 5 November 5 2013: 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM, 141st American Public Health Association Annual Meeting, Boston, MA
Water covers 70% of the Earth’s surface and billions of people rely on oceans and other water bodies for food. There are two ways seafood gets to our plates: harvesting wild populations and aquaculture, or farmed seafood, and both methods are intimately linked to ocean pollution and public health. Over the past century, global human activity has resulted in overfishing, water pollution, and climate change, which have affected oceans and the food that comes from them in potentially irreparable ways. This session will cover a few of the most pressing ocean and human health issues: i) impacts of ocean acidification on aquaculture; ii) seafood contamination through anthropogenic pollution; and iii) ecological and health concerns associated with open ocean aquaculture. Two examples of human activity affecting oceans and seafood include difficulties associated with producing farmed seafood in increasingly acidic waters and the human origins of methylmercury contamination in wild caught seafood. Oceans absorb 33% of carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels, and shellfish farming in some regions of the world is threatened by the resulting ocean acidification. Also, methylmercury from fossil fuel emissions deposit into oceans, and pregnant women and children are advised to avoid eating certain fish due to health risks. Using large nets or pens in the ocean to produce fish can lead to significant pollution from fish waste, uneaten food, and chemicals or drugs; disease transfer to wild fish; and escapes of nonnative species. In addition, farmed fish are commonly fed diets high in wild fish, which contributes to overfishing. Research has focused on creating alternative feeds for aquaculture, with a focus on crop-based feed, but industrial crop production causes significant ocean pollution, for example contributing to the dead-zone in the Gulf of Mexico, thus impacting wild seafood populations, aquaculture production, and public health in the region. Human activity leads to contaminated food and polluted oceans and local waterways, and this impacts human health. How food from the ocean is affected by ocean pollution or contributes to it is important for consumers, dietitians, researchers, and decision-makers to consider.

Session Objectives: 1. Explain the effects of global climate change and ocean acidification on local aquaculture production. 2. Describe the connections between global methylmercury pollution and safety of consuming wild caught seafood. 3. List three main ecological threats associated with large-scale, open ocean aquaculture that affect oceans and public health. 4. Explain the potential environmental and public health impacts of significantly expanding crop-based fish feed for aquaculture production. 5. Identify three policy decisions that could reduce ocean pollution/acidification, make seafood safer to eat, and/or reduce the environmental footprint of aquaculture.
Moderator:
David Love, PhD, MSPH
Organizer:
Jillian Fry, PhD MPH
5:30pm

Environmental public health impacts of increasing crop production for aquaculture feed
Jillian Fry, PhD MPH

American Public Health Association. More information.


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