Ocean health assessment is helpful to take relevant policy decisions. (Photo: NOAA)
Oceans score 60 out of 100 in health index
Friday, August 17, 2012, 04:00 (GMT + 9)
A team of international scientists gave the health of the world's oceans a score of 60 out of 100. To calculate the overall score, the team evaluated ecological, social, economic and political conditions for every coastal nation in the world.
The team, including fisheries researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC), carried out the first global quantitative assessment of ocean health and created the Ocean Health Index, which was published this week in the journal Nature.
Researchers from UBC's Fisheries Centre measured the amount of seafood that is sustainably generated for human consumption by fisheries and marine aquaculture.
The scores for individual countries ranged widely: from Sierra Leone, with a failing scores of 36, to Jarvis Island, an uninhabited, relatively pristine island in the South Pacific, with the highest scores of 86. Canada is among the top performers with a score of 70 while the US received 63, the UK received 62 and China, 53.
Almost one-third of the countries scored below 50. However, the study authors note that the range of scores for individual countries, and with 5 per cent of nations scoring higher than 70, means there truly are successes despite the low scores.
“This should not be considered a failing grade for the oceans,” says Karen McLeod, a study co-author and the director of science at COMPASS, a non-profit science-communication organization based across the west coast of the US. “The real value of the index will be the ability to track progress related to management policies over time.”
Daniel Pauly, principal investigator with the Sea Around Us project and the study's co-author, referred to the index as a remarkable framework to assess if things are getting better or worse in response to human activity.
"Although Canada did comparatively well, it has so far set aside only one per cent of its waters as marine protected areas. We would like to see progress in this area and others," he commented.
The study's lead author, Ben Halpern from the University of California, Santa Barbara, says the scores provide a baseline against which to measure future change and the effectiveness of steps taken to improve ocean health.
A goal of the index, he said, is to help countries make more educated policy decisions, especially in regions that have already committed to improving ocean health, National Geographic News reports.
In contrast, some marine researchers say that useful indicators of ocean health are lacking from the index.
By Natalia Real
Photo Courtesy of FIS Member National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA/NMFS