New Study Indicates Global Ocean Health Is Relatively Stable

November 30, 2017

Conservation International’s Ocean Health Index Used by UN to Further Sustainable Development Goal on Oceans

The Ocean Health Index, a tool developed by Conservation International and National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, shows that while the ocean is not dying, a score of 70 is a far cry from the desired score of 100 that is indicative of a healthy, sustainably managed ocean.

The report also reveals that more individual countries have witnessed a decrease in their ocean health score over the last six years, since OHI first began assessing ocean health in 2012. In total, 137 region scores have decreased while 82 have increased. Eighteen regions scored 80 or above, many of which are remote islands with few or no human inhabitants. Germany (82) was the only region with a population exceeding one million to score 80 or above. Twelve regions scored 50 or below, with nine of these in Africa, and one in Central America, Middle East and the Balkans.

“Each year of scores gives us deeper insight into how the oceans are doing, where major challenges remain and where success stories can offer lessons on how to improve ocean health in other parts of the world,” noted Dr. Ben Halpern, lead scientist for OHI, Director of NCEAS and Professor at the Bren School at UCSB. “You can’t manage well what you don’t measure, and the OHI provides a key tool for measuring the health of the ocean.”

Called the “Fitbit for oceans”, the Ocean Health Index has been used to assess ocean health on the local and regional scale, measuring factors such as biodiversity, coastal protection and clean waters to help inform regional policies.

The UN has proposed utilizing the Ocean Health Index to further the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14: Life Below Water, which encourages countries to use ecosystem-based approaches to manage, protect, and restore marine and coastal ecosystems towards healthy and productive oceans.

“The global SDGs are aspirational but organizing action around each will be challenging,” says Johanna Polsenberg, Ph.D., Senior Director, Ocean Governance and Policy, Conservation International. “The reality remains that SDGs are unlikely to succeed unless the governance challenges crucial to implementation are addressed. The OHI is designed to do just that.”

The Ocean Health Index scores, calculated every year since 2012, provide a measure of how well 220 countries and territories are sustainably managing our ocean resources. The Index calculates baseline scores for 221 countries and territories and is updated annually to measure progress on 10 human goals: food provision, artisanal fishing opportunities, natural products, carbon storage, coastal protection, livelihoods and economies, tourism and recreation, sense of place, clean waters and biodiversity.

About Conservation International

Conservation International uses science, policy and partnerships to protect the nature people rely on for food, fresh water and livelihoods. Founded in 1987, Conservation International works in more than 30 countries on six continents to ensure a healthy, prosperous planet that supports us all. Learn more about Conservation International and its groundbreaking “Nature Is Speaking” campaign, and follow Conservation International’s work on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.