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The Surprising Benefits of a Healthy Ocean

A healthy ocean helps global sustainable development goals in many ways.

sunlight coming through the water


Amid the disappointment over Donald Trump’s announcement that he will withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, it can be easy to lose faith that we’re losing on the environmental front. But we have to keep up the faith. There are still so many people working on issues of sustainability. And the land and the oceans need us to keep that faith and work.

In preparation for last week’s UN World Ocean Conference—a first for the UN—the Nippon Foundation-Nereu Program published a report that highlighted the ways a healthy ocean can benefit the world in ways we might not always think about. For example, we know that ending overfishing and creating marine reserves are important. But did you know that sustainable fisheries could help reduce poverty, contributing to decent work and sustained economic growth?

In addition to tackling poverty, issues of climate change and social justice are also closely connected. For example, “A healthy ocean can contribute to achieving gender equality,” wrote Yoshitaka Ota, the Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program’s Director of Policy. “Fisheries’ activities are quite gendered—women typically do unrecognized and unrewarded work. Men will go on boats to capture fish that are sent to markets. But women are often collecting the subsistence food.”

Program Manager Andrés Cisneros-Montemayor, added, “A healthy ocean can also mean the difference between malnourishment and a steady supply of high quality protein for vulnerable communities. The oceans are connected to our lives in many ways. Restoring the oceans isn't just an environmentalist’s dream but is vital for employment, well being, livelihoods, and health around the world.”

Ocean sustainability, noted Ota in the report, “holds the key not only to our future prosperity but also for our survival from a comprehensive science-based perspective.”

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. Her latest book is Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers.

About the Author

Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is based in Savannah. She’s been a contributor to the magazine for many years, and she loves sharing ways to build a healthy, mindful, and sustainable lifestyle.

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