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Ocean Health Index Tracks Relationship of Man and Ocean by Country

RP Siegel | Tuesday August 21st, 2012 | 0 Comments

Last week a group of scientists, working in partnership with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Sea Around Us, Conservation International, National Geographic, and the New England Aquarium, announced the establishment of a new Ocean Health Index, a first-ever, comprehensive measurement tool that incorporates ecological, economic and social factors into a single metric the can be used to measure the current state of the ocean as well as the health of the relationship of man and ocean on a country by country basis.

Three years in the making, and involving over 65 scientists, the first set of measurements for 171 countries is now available on their website in a readily searchable database format. The scope of the evaluation extends to 200 nautical miles offshore, an area which defines the Exclusive Economic Zone for that country.

The countries are evaluated with respect to the following ten goals (shown with achieved global score out of 100):

  • Natural products (40)
  • Food provision (24)
  • Artisanal opportunities (87)
  • Carbon storage (75)
  • Coastal protection (73)
  • Tourism & recreation (10)
  • Livelihoods & economy (75)
  • Sense of place (55)
  • Biodiversity (83)
  • Clean waters (78)

Each goal is further evaluated along the dimensions of status, trend, pressure and resilience. The survey includes an estimation of whether that goal was trending up or down with an estimate of how much it might be expected to change by the next survey. As you can see, this is not merely an environmental metric, but an attempt to incorporate the uses of the ocean upon which mankind depends.

The Index, with its rich data sets, will be highly valuable in guiding economic, environmental, and policy decisions. As most business people well know, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. This index now brings a new level of analytical capability to the maintenance of perhaps our most critical resource: our oceans.

Some of the results might be surprising. The overall global score was determined to be 60 out of a possible 100. The highest score (86) went to Jarvis Island, an uninhabited coral island in the South Pacific. Yet overall, most of the high scores tended to go to developed countries. Germany, tied for 4th with Seychelles, received a score of 73. The US scored 63, which ranked it 26th overall. Canada’s score of 70 put it in a tie for 9th place along with the Netherlands. But each country arrived at their score differently. Canada was higher in clean water, food provision and tourism, while Netherlands ranked higher in coastal protection and sense of place.

When putting together the metrics, the team put a high emphasis on a consistent framework that was quantitative, scalable, flexible, responsive, deep-diveable and target-driven. The resulting set of metrics provides a comprehensive and robust tool for evaluating the state of the ocean both by location and with respect to the ten goals.

The developers intended that this Index would not only provide a global standard for ocean health, but also to influence decision-makers and raise public awareness of ocean health in the hope of generating action in support of this crucial resource.

[Image credit: AGrinberg: Flickr Creative Commons]

RP Siegel, PE, is an inventor, consultant and author. He co-wrote the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining format. Now available on Kindle.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.


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