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The Ocean Health Index

A healthy ocean sustainably delivers a range of benefits to people now and in the future. But are we using the ocean in a way that can ensure future benefits?

© Jeff Yonover


The Ocean Health Index is a decision-making tool and framework for conserving the human-ocean ecosystem because people need a healthy ocean. The Index is the first assessment tool that scientifically measures key elements from all dimensions of the ocean’s health — biological, physical, economic and social — to guide decision makers toward the sustainable use of the ocean.

First completed in 2012, more than 65 scientists, economists and environmental managers worked together to develop the global Ocean Health Index, which provides an annual assessment of ocean health around the world using information from over 120 scientific databases. Since then, more than 25 countries and regions have embarked on independent Ocean Health Assessments. Independent assessments use the same framework as the global assessments, but allow for exploration of factors influencing ocean health at the smaller scales where policy and management decisions are made.


Our role

Conservation International is a founder of the Ocean Health Index and serves as the managing partner. We work closely with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis to incorporate the most up-to-date scientific methodology, produce annual global assessments and work with governments, scientific organizations and NGO partners to apply the OHI on regional and local scales.


Our plan

Providing a universal standard for year-to-year comparison, the Ocean Health Index informs communities, governments and scientists about the current state of ocean health and serves as an assessment tool to inform policy decisions about ocean management.


Annual global assessment

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.


OHI+ independent assessments

OHI+ uses the same framework as global assessments but allows for the exploration of variables influencing ocean health at the smaller scales where policy and management decisions are made. Goal models and targets are created using higher resolution data, indicators, and priorities, which produce scores better reflecting local realities.

OHI+ enables scientists, managers, policy makers, and the public to better and more holistically understand, track, and communicate the status of local marine ecosystems, and to design strategic multisectoral management actions to improve overall ocean health.


© Rod Mast

By the numbers

Where we work

  • 3 completed case studies: Brazil, Fiji, and U.S. West Coast
  • 3 completed independent assessments: China, Ecuador, Israel
  • 24 active independent assessments
  • 25+ countries or regions engaged

Currently, 21 geographies are actively conducting assessments: Arctic, Baltic Sea, British Colombia, Canada, Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Hawaii, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Caledonia, Pacific Oceanscape, Peru, South Korea, Spain, U.S. North East (Note: some countries and regions are conducting multiple assessments.)

Another group of countries is pursuing a longer stakeholder engagement process on the way to conducting assessments, which includes the British Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, Madagascar & Comoros, Kenya & Tanzania, and Panama.


 This must be done as if it’s a matter of life and death — because it is. 

Sylvia Earle, Explorer-in-Residence, National Geographic 

Galapagos, Ecuador, Seascape, Marine
© CI/photo by Sterling Zumbrunn

Healthy oceans, healthy people

The ocean is our most valuable asset. More than 1 billion people depend on fish for their basic protein; 350 million jobs worldwide depend on the marine sector; 25% of marine mammals face some threat of extinction; and less than 3% of the ocean is designated as a marine protected area.

With the Ocean Health Index, we are charting new territory in assessing ocean health and how it benefits people both socially and economically. The fragile ocean system is threatened by the growing needs of people. Through informed management, we can regain an ocean that provides the resources and services we need now and in the future. The Index informs that management with a scientific report card.

Visit the Ocean Health Index website to learn more about the goals and see scores by country.



Founding grant generously provided by

Founding presenting sponsor