Arlington, Va. –
Today researchers announced the 2013 update to the
Ocean Health Index
. A finding of concern from its first annual update was the low score, 33 of 100, for Food Provision, one of ten measured goals that comprise the Index. The Index also showed that Oceania (Western & Central Pacific) and Europe were the two highest scoring regions in the world. Despite variation in scores between Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), the cumulative score of the oceans globally was 65 out of 100, which is unchanged from 2012 and indicates there remains room for more effective management of the oceans in order to sustain the benefits they provide for human well-being.
Natural products, a measure of how well we sustainably use non-food ocean products such as sponges, ornamental fish, fish oil, shells, seaweeds and coral products, scored lowest with 31 out of 100. These scores indicate that we are harvesting fish and products from the ocean faster than they can be replaced; and that nations could obtain greater benefits by using resources more sustainably and fully. This provides a clear measure to enable policy makers to monitor their progress towards sustainable management of their coastlines.
"It's exciting to release this year's results because we can now, for the first time, start to see how overall ocean health is changing in each country, and for the whole planet”, said Ben Halpern, Professor at the
Bren School of Environmental Science and Management
, UC Santa Barbara and the Index's lead scientist. "Already the United Nations, international organizations, and individual countries are recognizing how useful the Index can be in assessing how we are doing in managing our oceans and where we need to make changes. To have so much uptake in just over a year since we first launched the Index is really remarkable and very encouraging."
The Ocean Health Index is categorized into ten goals:
Ocean Health Index Score 2013
Artisanal Fishing Opportunities
Coastal Livelihoods & Economies
Sense of Place
Tourism & Recreation
The Ocean Health Index assesses how well we sustainably use ocean resources and benefits. It serves as a resource for policy makers and businesses worldwide. The Index measures ten ocean health goals and defines a healthy ocean as one that delivers a range of benefits to people both now and in the future. The Index is the collaborative work of scientists led by Ben Halpern at the
National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS)
at UC Santa Barbara and including the University of British Columbia’s
Sea Around Us
, the New England Aquarium and a broad spectrum of universities, non-profit organizations and government agencies.
Food Provision Score is Second Lowest among Index Goals
With a score of only 33 out of 100, Food Provision from Wild Caught Fisheries and Mariculture was the second lowest scoring goal. Nine of the ten highest-scoring regions for Food Provision were island nations in the Western South Pacific --- Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Palau, Marshall Islands, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna, Papua New Guinea, Nauru and New Caledonia. Those nations are particularly important because half of the world’s tuna fishery depends on their waters. The remaining region, Heard and McDonald Islands, is a group of remote volcanic islands administered by Australia in the southern Indian Ocean 1000 kilometers north of Antarctica nearly equidistant between Australia and Africa.
Scores for the Wild-Caught Fisheries sub-goal of the Food Provision goal for the ten countries with highest fishery catches were: China (16), Peru (67), Russia (16), United States (41), India (13), Indonesia (25), Chile (49), Japan (17) and Norway (34). Those scores averaged 29, two points below the Global Score for Wild Caught Fisheries. Distant water catches by those or other nations are allocated to the regions where the fish were caught, so all scores reflect the condition of fisheries in the region listed. Thirty-seven countries or territories scored ten or below.
“The Ocean Health Index measures how well we are sustainably producing seafood including wild catch fisheries and mariculture. The score of 33 out of 100 for Food Provision indicates that food security is at risk, particularly for those parts of the world that depend upon seafood as a critical source of high quality protein,” said Andrew Rosenberg, Director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists." Seafood is an important part in a healthy diet for all of us. We can do better."
Sub-goals are weighted by quantity (metric tons) of seafood contributed to the total seafood harvest for each country.
Food Provision Goal Score 2013
Wild Caught Fisheries
"The Food Provision goal provides a meaningful way to understand the implications of how we manage our fisheries resources across the globe”, said Heather Tausig, Vice President of Conservation at the New England Aquarium. "Meanwhile, the Index also reveals that opportunities exist to improve the sustainability of aquaculture operations and increase production of farmed seafood to meet the global demand for protein."
In 2013 the method for calculating the food provision was improved. A team of scientists developed a new way to assess the maximum sustainable yield for various stocks that had insufficient data in the past. This is an important new metric both for the Ocean Health Index and for other fisheries measurements. The new method was applied to 2012 scores as well in order that those results can be compared to 2013 scores. This caused a change to some scores that were announced in 2012.
Island Nations and Europe Lead in Scores
Island territories or nations gained the top ten overall scores. The Heard and McDonald Islands’ score and rank (94, 1st) were the highest for any populated region, though the population is only 110. Saba’s (90, 2nd) were the highest with population greater than 1,000. Top scores for progressively larger populations were Bonaire (84, 7th) for a nation with population over 10,000 Curacao (81, 10th) for more than a population greater than 100,000 people; Croatia (75, 18th) for more than one million people; and France (73, 32nd) for more than 50 million people.
Western European countries scored relatively well: the Netherlands (score 74, rank 21st), France (73, 32nd), Belgium (72, 37th), Monaco (70, 42nd), and Germany (68, 59th), all scoring above the Global Score of 65.
“The Index scores gave us an interesting look at the diverse types of nations that can score high in ocean health. On the surface, we see a lot of places with little to no human impact but then we see highly populated European countries scoring above the global average,” said
Dr. Greg Stone, Executive Vice President for The Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science and Oceans at Conservation International. “This shows us that human activity has an impact on ocean health, but indicates that densely populated and highly industrialized nations that have better management practices in place for their EEZs, as many European nations do, can score higher on the Ocean Health Index.”
Wealth Does Not Mean Health for Oceans
Wealthy countries have the greatest impact on industry and policy so their performance on the Index is important to ocean health, but there was little correlation between their economic performance as measured by GDP and their Ocean Health Index scores. The average score of countries with the fifteen highest GDPs was 65, no better than the global average.
Some of the wealthiest nations as measured by GDP rank very low on the Ocean Health Index.
Many of the ten lowest scoring countries -- of which Guinea Bissau scores the lowest, preceded by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Pakistan, Angola, Somalia and Nicaragua -- are poor or have a recent history of war, civil strife, ethnic conflict, dictatorship or poor governance. Such conditions constrain resources or opportunities for taking the resilience actions needed to reduce social and environmental pressures on the ocean.
Top 15 countries in GDP
Ocean Health Index Rank
Ocean Health Index Score
Globally, the oceans scored 69 for the Coastal Protection goal, which measures the presence of coastal habitats, including mangrove forests, seagrass beds, salt marshes, coral reefs and sea ice that serve to protect coastlines from storm surges and coastal flooding. A score below 100 indicates the decline over the last three decades in the extent and condition of those key natural habitats that protect shorelines from storms. Eighty-five countries that sit in the annual path of tropical cyclones had an average score of 57 out of 100. Of those countries with a population exceeding 10 million people, the average score is only 56.
Recent work has shown that tropical cyclones cause an estimated $26 billion a year in lost property. “Coastal habitats mitigate the damage that storms can cause so it was important for us to include coastal protection as a goal in the Ocean Health Index. We must try to restore naturally protective coastal habitats in storm prone regions, in combination with sensible coastal planning and civil engineering”, said Elizabeth Selig, Director of Marine Science at Conservation International.
The Ocean Health Index publishes an annual update of scores for ten goals for ocean health based on scientific analysis of over 100 global data layers and using studies from leading research agencies around the world. Index scores were computed for 221 Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) which are identified as “countries” on the website.
Sylvia Earle, Explorer-in-Residence, National Geographic added “The Ocean Health Index provides a quantitative scientific assessment of the human impact on our oceans. It reveals the areas that must be improved in order to provide our children and their children a healthy thriving ocean. This must be done as if it’s a matter of life and death – because it is.”
About the Ocean Health Index – The Ocean Health Index is the first assessment tool that scientifically compares and combines key elements from all dimensions of the ocean’s health – biological, physical, economic and social. The Index’s ten goals provide leaders with the portfolio of information they need to promote a more sustainable human-ocean ecosystem. The Index can be used globally, regionally or for an individual bay. It allows for direct comparison across different aspects of ocean health and different locations in a way that is not possible with current assessment tools.
The Ocean Health Index was developed with the contributions of more than 65 ocean experts including the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and the University of British Columbia’s Sea Around Us project. The founding partners of the Index are Conservation International, National Geographic, and The New England Aquarium. The Founding Presenting Sponsor of the Ocean Health Index is the Pacific Life Foundation. The founding grant was provided by Beau and Heather Wrigley. . For more information, please see
or visit us on
Below is the global map of Index scores. To learn more about ocean health and to view and explore results of the Index, visit
, and to download all data and results used in the project visit
; both websites will launch at time of embargo lift.
Union of Concerned Scientists
(previously Conservation International)