How Healthy Are Our Oceans?

by Robin Yeager on 08/20/2012

in Environment, Ocean

The ocean realm is abuzz with an innovative Ocean Health Index (OHI) created by “… more than 65 scientists/ocean experts and partnerships between organizations including the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Sea Around Us, Conservation International, National Geographic, and the New England Aquarium“.  The OHI covers the world’s exclusive economic zones (EEZ), which extend 200 nautical miles from shore.

© 2011

© 2011

With an OHI of 63, the USA ties with eight others for a global rank of 26, providing a baseline from which we can identify targets for improvement and hopefully implement practices that result in healthier seas. The highest ranking location is uninhabited Jarvis Island (86) with the USA’s Pacific uninhabited territories coming in 2nd (80), highlighting the far-reaching effects of human impacts elsewhere. War-ravaged Sierra Leone’s EEZ is in the worst shape on the planet (36).

The OHI quantifies and averages 10 “human goals” to derive a number between 1 and 100 representing the state of a given country’s coast and the ocean overall.  The categories are:

  • Artisanal Fishering Opportunities
  • Biodiversity
  • Carbon Storage
  • Clean Waters
  • Coastal Livelihoods and Economies
  • Coastal Protection
  • Food Provision
  • Natural Products
  • Sense of Place
  • Tourism & Recreation.

Among the benefits of this approach is the developers’ recognition that the marine environment is inextricably entertwined with human use of our oceans.

To see a report about the study, check out this free article in Nature. The abstract for the scientific paper, by Benjamin Halpern et al, also was published in Nature. Credit is also due to the folks and entities who fund this project. You can find them here.

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