Non-communicable diseases are on the rise, and Americans are beginning to act. Recommended by the US Dietary Guidelines, Americans are trading in poultry and red meats for seafood, which are known to be rich in mono- and poly-saturated fats, or in other words, “healthy fats”. Nearly half of all seafood, however, comes from aquaculture, and as the population continues to consume more seafood, the demand on the aquaculture continues to rise with it. Last year, David Love, PhD, MSPH, faculty member of the Water Institute and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), and his colleagues Jillian Fry, PhD, MPH (CLF), Juan Gormaz, MD, and Marcia Erazo, PhD, MS (University of Chile) published Public Health Perspectives on Aquaculture, which employs the One Health approach in order to find the right solution to meeting the demand on the seafood industry.
Rich in omega-3s and omega-6s, seafood today has become somewhat of a “superfood”. However, research regarding the health benefits of these fats conflict and the palliative effects of seafood still remain inconclusive. Additionally, contaminants such as methylmercury and persistent organic pollutants (POPs), also typically found in seafood, may counteract the potential health benefits of seafood’s fats as well. Love and colleagues recommend further research of omega-3s and omega-6s in order to fully comprehend both the advantages and possible disadvantages to seafood consumption.
Furthermore, the One Health approach analyzes the use of unnatural contaminants in aquaculture, which can be damaging to both the environment and human health. Aquaculture species rely on pelagic forage fish as a feeding source and attribute to seafood’s high levels of omega-3 LCPUFAs. However, the use of pelagic fish is also contributing to overfishing. Chemicals used in fish farms and high concentrations of fish waste can also affect water quality in fish farms and produce runoff in water supplies and estuaries. Some forms of intensive aquaculture that are located in open water or dump effluent into waterways can spread disease between the farmed and wild fish populations as well.
As seafood consumption continues to rise, Love and colleagues urge for more research on ways to make aquaculture more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. The One Health model takes a multifaceted approach to aquaculture that squarely places public health, aquatic animal health, environmental health at the table with other stakeholders to discuss best practices in aquaculture.
Gormaz, J., Fry, J., & Erazo, M., Love, D. (2014). Public Health Perspectives on Aquacultures. Current Environmental Health Reports, 1(3), 227-238.
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