10 Ways to Measure Ocean Health

Last week, CI and a large group of partners and ocean experts launched the Ocean Health Index, the first holistic tool that measures the health of our oceans in terms of the benefits they provide to humans.

How? The Index gauges the health of the ocean based on 10 goals for a healthy ocean. Scores for 171 countries and territories show how well the oceans will be able to continue to deliver a range of benefits that people rely on. Here are the global scores — out of a possible top score of 100 — for these 10 goals.

Ocean Health Index global score for food provision: 24

1. Food Provision

One in 7 people on our planet rely on seafood as a daily source of protein, making seafood a fundamental benefit we receive from the ocean. The Food Provision goal measures the amount of seafood harvested for human consumption and how sustainable it is using two sub-goals: wild-caught fisheries and mariculture.

Ocean Health Index global score for artisanal fishing

2. Artisanal Fishing Opportunities

Small-scale fishing represents 50% of seafood harvested globally, and provides local communities with an immense range of benefits. The Artisanal Fishing Opportunities goal focuses on the opportunities for artisanal fishing, rather than the amount of fish caught, by evaluating the political and economic conditions that support artisanal fishing.

Ocean Health Index global score for natural products

3. Natural Products

Ornamental fish, seaweeds, sponges, shells and other products we extract from the sea can support coastal industries and provide economic benefits to local communities. The Natural Products goal measures a country’s harvest against 65% of the historic sustainable harvest achieved in the area.

Ocean Health Index global score for carbon storage

4. Carbon Storage

Earth’s coastal ecosystems cover a relatively small area but store disproportionately large amounts of carbon. The Carbon Storage goal assesses the condition of three coastal habitats: seagrass meadows, mangroves and salt marshes.

Ocean Health Index global score for coastal protection

5. Coastal Protection

In addition to storing carbon, our coastal habitats are also key for protecting us against flooding, erosion and storm damage by acting as natural buffer zones. The Coastal Protection goal assesses the condition of coral reef, mangrove, seagrass, salt marsh and sea ice ecosystems.

Ocean Health Index global score for coastal livelihoods

6. Coastal Livelihoods and Economies

Marine industries are growing rapidly, and can compose a significant part of a nation’s economy. Globally, it has been estimated that 350 million jobs are linked to the ocean, with economic activities — including shipping, boating, tourism and fishing — valued between US$ 3 to 6 trillion. The Coastal Livelihoods and Economies analyze these key industries using two subgoals: Livelihoods and Economies.

Ocean Health Index global score for tourism and recreation

7. Tourism and recreation

If done correctly, tourism and recreation can contribute to the health of the oceans and the livelihoods of coastal economies. Ecotourism industries help local economies and attract international tourists, thus providing incentives to protect species and ecosystems. The Tourism and Recreation goal looks at international tourism entry data in each country.

Ocean Health Index global score for sense of place

8. Sense of Place

For people across the globe, protecting a local species or place that has strong spiritual, cultural and personal value can be enormously important. The Sense of Place goal captures this value through two sub-goals: Iconic Species and Lasting Special Places.

Ocean Health Index global score for clean waters

9. Clean Waters

A marine environment free of pollutants and toxins means better human health, recreation, livelihoods and ecosystems. Contamination of waters by oil, eutrophication, pathogens and trash come from a wide range of sources. The Clean Waters goal assesses the amount of pollution that enters our marine systems.

Ocean Health Index global score for biodiversity

10. Biodiversity

People rely on the enormous diversity of species and habitats in our oceans. A biodiverse ecosystem means a high number of species and healthy habitats. The two sub-goals of the Biodiversity goal — Species and Habitats — measure the status of marine species and the status of the habitats that support those species.

Tina Lee is CI’s Ocean Health Index coordinator. Learn more about these scores, and share them by “pinning” our graphic below to Pinterest.


  1. Radfax says

    Return the lands to the people and the people to the lands

    We as free people must not pull back from seeking the truth and consistency in any plans concerning our race, the planet and its species.
    If we look at the world, we are all sharing it as the whole, the one, and, at present, there is no other.
    The bottom line is, you cannot get off.

    It is each and everyone’s responsibility to ensure that industry, Governments and corporate’s do not destroy the environment and species any more.
    There are no excuses for the wanton destruction of the planet, it’s species and habitats to date.

    You/we/I have only to look to see the massive environmental damage that big companies and governments have already created with their insatiable greed and their need for cash, control of people, energy and resources.
    The truth is they must be stopped from destroying any further.

    Alternative energy is not a fantasy, there is an inexhaustible amount of information readily available.
    Conservation of energy must also be fully realized, utilized and practiced.
    Do not be fooled into thinking bio fuels, or hydro electric dams are an answer.
    They serve no sustainable purpose, resulting once again in the destruction of habitats and the displacement of wildlife and indigenous people’s.

    As a race, we must not allow any to destroy our environment.
    We must not allow corporate, industry, or regimes to force us to be separated from interacting with our environment.

    Nuclear power is a demon seed with nuclear waste having a half life of 25,000 years.
    This means that it will still be 100% toxic to all forms of cellular life in 25,000 years time.
    Chernobyl in Russia and Fukushima in Japan has shown that no nuclear power plants are 100% safe, and once an accident happens, the species and environmental impact is both far reaching and devastating.

    People must pluck the sickness of greed and corruption from their Nations
    You only get one chance, make that chance, one of a future for all People, species and planet.

    People must oppose tyrants, regimes and oppressors and those who commit crimes against peace, genocide, and ecocide. Everyone is on the same Planet, we need to acknowledge that we are also on the same page in our History and Future.
    send the corrupt and unscrupulous to jail

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