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2013 Ocean Health Index
updated: Oct 15, 2013, 10:54 AM
Source: University of California Santa Barbara
In the 2013 Ocean Health Index (OHI) -- an annual assessment of ocean health led by Ben Halpern, a
research associate at UC Santa Barbara's National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS)
and professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management -- scientists point to food
provision as the factor that continues to require serious attention.
The OHI defines a healthy ocean as one that sustainably delivers a range of benefits to people now and
in the future based on 10 diverse public goals. The 2013 score of 65 out of 100 demonstrates the
ongoing need for more effective management of this precious resource.
"I'm encouraged because people, organizations and governments are paying attention to the Ocean
Health Index and what they can learn from it," Halpern said. "Not only has the OHI been adopted as an
indicator to gauge how well countries are meeting their biodiversity conservation targets, but it is
beginning to inform the United Nations World Ocean Assessment and was named by the World
Economic Forum as one of two endorsed tools for helping achieve sustainable oceans."
Goal scores out of a possible 100 for categories that make up the OHI ranged from a low of 31 for
natural products to a high of 95 for artisanal fishing opportunities. Other categories include food
provision (33), carbon storage (74), coastal protection (69), coastal livelihoods and economies (82),
tourism and recreation (39), sense of place (60), clean waters (78) and biodiversity (85).
With a score of only 33 out of 100, food production from wild harvest and mariculture (cultivation of
marine organisms in the open ocean) was the second-lowest-scoring goal and one of the most
important resources from the sea for people around the world. A score of 100 is given for wild-caught
fisheries if the biomass of landed stocks at sea is within ±5 percent of a buffered amount below the
biomass that can deliver maximum sustainable yield. For mariculture, the number of tonnes of product
per coastal inhabitant living within 31 miles of the coast is calculated for each country, and all countries
above the 95th percentile receive scores of 100. Countries that have never had mariculture are not
"Seafood is a major source of protein for one-third of the world's population, and it is estimated we will
need 70 percent more food by 2050 to feed the growing population," said Daniel Pauly, principal
investigator of the Sea Around Us project and leader of the University of British Columbia team of
science contributors to OHI. "The score of 33 out of 100 for food provision indicates we are not ready to
meet that challenge."
The 2013 OHI also assessed coastal protection, giving it a score of 69 out of 100 and indicating that
further declines are likely. Coastal habitats -- including mangrove forests, sea-grass beds and salt
marshes, coral reefs and sea ice -- protect coastlines from storm surges and coastal flooding. Forty-five
countries that sit in the annual path of tropical cyclones had an average score of 52 out of 100. A score
below 100 indicates a decline in area and condition of key natural habitats that protect shorelines from
Among those cyclone-prone countries with a population exceeding 10 million people, the average
coastal protection score is only 51 compared to the global average score of 69. The score was down
slightly (-0.2 percent) from 2012 and the OHI calculates that the likely future status will decrease by 1
percent in the coming five years.
"Restoring natural protective habitats in storm-prone regions, in combination with sensible coastal
planning and creative civil engineering, is essential," said Greg Stone, a leading authority on marine
conservation policy and ocean health issues and executive vice president at Conservation International's
Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science and Oceans.
Wealthy countries have the greatest impact on industry and policy so their performance on the OHI is
important to ocean health, but there was little correlation between their economic performance as
measured by gross domestic product (GDP) and their OHI scores. The average score of countries with
the 15 highest GDPs was 65 -- higher than the global average, but still not optimal.
"In its second year now, the OHI demonstrates that the areas with the least human impact have healthier
oceans, but it also shows that nations who manage their resources better achieve higher OHI scores,"
Halpern said. "We depend on the health of the ocean for many benefits, such as food, livelihood and
tourism, and the OHI indicates that the condition of these benefits needs to be improved in order to
provide a healthy thriving ocean for our children and their children."
The OHI is a collaborative effort, made possible through contributions from more than 65
scientists/ocean experts and partnerships among organizations including UCSB's NCEAS, Sea Around
Us, Conservation International, National Geographic and the New England Aquarium. The full set of
scores for each country can be found at oceanhealthindex.org.
View the full Press Release at UCSB.edu
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