The London Olympics captivated the world over the last few weeks, as we watched our home countries’ competitors achieve new heights in athletic prowess. As a society, we celebrate their performances and encourage them to get even better in the future. My question is: What if this sort of ambition carried over into other aspects of society?
Consider the oceans — the world’s largest resource. The oceans provide us with ample seafood, coastal protection, cultural identity, livelihoods and a host of other benefits, yet so far we have not prioritized their protection. With 7 billion people on the planet, almost half of whom live close to the coast, securing sustainable benefits from the ocean is not only a moral imperative, it’s a matter of long-term survival for people and societies.
In the past, the lack of a comprehensive and clear measurement of ocean health has been a major factor preventing progress. In order to fill this gap, this week we are launching the Ocean Health Index, a collaboration between 65 of the world’s leading ocean experts, including scientists from CI, the National Center of Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at University of California, University of British Columbia, the National Geographic Society and the New England Aquarium.
The Ocean Health Index is the first-ever comprehensive global measurement of marine health that includes people as a critical part of the ocean ecosystem. It scientifically scores the sustainability of 10 “goals,” or benefits people expect from the oceans, to generate an objective snapshot of the overall health of the oceans, as well as the marine areas controlled by each coastal country.
So what is the global score for the state of the world’s oceans? A meager 60 (out of a top score of 100). This low score highlights how far we are from where we need to be to ensure the oceans can continue to provide the benefits we depend upon in the future.
CI’s marine programs improve ocean health in several ways. Over the coming months, my colleagues and I will share with you inspiring stories of success and highlight how the work of CI and our partners in government, business and civil society organizations advance ocean health through initiatives like:
- Seascapes: We expand a variety of marine protected areas that allow species and habitats to recover while offering people opportunities to benefit from sustainable fisheries, tourism, clean water and other products of healthy ecosystems.
- Regional agreements: We scale up our seascapes work in larger protected area networks, including the Coral Triangle Initiative and Pacific Oceanscape.
- Blue carbon conservation and climate change adaptation: We conserve mangroves, seagrass beds and salt marshes that provide carbon storage and coastal protection for people, property and infrastructure.
- Sustainable fisheries: We aim to improve global fish stocks through better managed coastal fisheries, sustainable aquaculture and participation in the Global Partnership for Oceans.
The Ocean Health Index offers the world’s governments, businesses and communities the opportunity to measure our progress; to adapt our strategies and approaches; to improve our performance. It also allows CI and our many partners to be faster, stronger and achieve more, just like the Olympic athletes we so admire. Hopefully the Ocean Health Index will also stimulate sound competition among countries to become champions for ocean health and continuously strive to improve their scores.
Advancing ocean health is a team sport. In order to restore healthy ocean ecosystems and safeguard benefits for people whom depend on them for their well-being and survival, we all need to play our part.
Sebastian Troëng is the vice president of CI’s Global Marine division.