Ocean Health Gets ‘D’ Grade

By Kieran Mulvaney, Discovery Channel

After two years of effort, an international team of 65 scientists, policymakers and environmentalists has completed the first phase of what might appear to be an impossible task: assessing the health of the ocean and assigning it a ‘score.’

Their conclusion? Out of a possible score of 100, the ocean’s health rates a 60. The lowest score – 36 – went to the waters off Sierra Leone, while the waters surrounding uninhabited Jarvis Island, near Hawaii, merited an 86. United States waters averaged a score of 63.

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To determine the scores, the authors assessed ten diverse public goals – food provision, carbon storage, tourism and recreation, biodiversity, artisanal fishing opportunities, coastal protection, sense of place, natural products, coastal livelihoods and economies, and clean waters – and calculated the index for every coastal country: a total of 171 nations and territories. The high seas are not included in the index; its authors hope to add them within the next year or two.

Each goal was evaluated on the basis of four criteria. Present Status is a goal’s current value (based on the most recent available data) compared to a reference point. Trend is the average percent change in the present status for the most recent 5 years of data. Pressures are the ecological and social pressures that negatively affect scores for a goal. Resilience is the sum of the ecological factors and social initiatives (such as policies or laws) that can positively affect scores for a goal by reducing or eliminating pressures.

The score for each goal is the average of the values for the Present Status and Likely Future Status, with the latter determined by combining the Trend, Pressures, and Resilience values. Within that combination, the authors assigned Trend twice as much weight as the combined role of Resilience and Pressures, because trends are a more direct measure of the future trajectory of a goal, while resilience measures require more time to take effect, and changes are often slow to register.

Launching the index, via publication of a paper in Nature this week, is, the authors hope, only the beginning. Lead author Ben Halpern of the University of California, Santa Barbara said it was “just the launch pad for what will hopefully be the much larger and more substantial effort of engaging with people.”

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In addition to adding the high seas in due course, Halpern and colleagues plan to update the index annually, and anticipate it providing the basis for national, regional and international ocean management. They point out that individual countries can use it to judge their own success or failure, and that they can make those judgments according to their own emphases: for example, if their priority is to extract the maximum amount of fish from their waters, they can assign that the greatest weight, and adjust their score accordingly. Alternatively, if they wish to focus their score on efforts to protect their marine resources from exploitation, they can do that too.

The effort has a fan in NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, who called it “a great leap forward in society’s attempts to understand what the trade-offs are for management decisions.”



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Marcel Elschot
Marcel E5 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Lydia Weissmuller Price

We are truly witnessing the death of our planet. We were supposed to be good stewards...

billy belshaw
Past Member 5 years ago

thank you for the information

rene davis
irene davis5 years ago

Yeah humans deserve an F.

Phillipa W.
Phillipa W5 years ago

I would like to think that the fact it's been measured and graded that means improvement will start happening. right? hope so. And sometime soon. we have much work to do.

Jennifer C.
Past Member 5 years ago

Thank you.

Megan C.
Megan C.5 years ago

What more will it take before we put forth the effort required to protect the environment? Some people are putting forth valiant efforts, but the involvement of everyone needs to occur and stricter regulations against harm to the environment need to be put in place before its too late.

Sheleen Addison
Sheleen Addison5 years ago

Is it too late to reverse it??

Lynn C.
Lynn C5 years ago

But we keep drilling for that oil and making that plastic and selling more crap to throw away...too bad we can't get it through our heads that an economy build on growth will continue to "grow" the garbage patches and is dooming us all to a total planetary ecosystem burnout.

Chris C.
Chris C5 years ago

Very sad. We haven't done a very good job of taking care of Mother Earth.
I believe we live multiple lives - the purpose of each life is to continue to further magnify the soul. I really hope this is my last life here. I just can't bear to see our earth abused anymore.