Ocean Health Rates 60 Out of 100

Posted August 31st, 2012 at 6:55 pm (UTC-4)
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For many students, getting 60 percent on a test is practically a failing grade.  Yet a new study, which rates overall ocean health at 60 out of a 100, suggests that score is not as bad as some think.

The Ocean Health Index (OCI) assesses the health of the oceans using a wide spectrum of evaluating factors such as the ecological, social, economic and political conditions for every coastal country.

While the OCI shows there are problems maintaining ocean health, Ben Halpern, lead scientist of the project, says there are many things humans are doing right in order to achieve  a score of 60.

The individual scores of the 171 evaluated countries vary widely; from a low of 36 off the coast of Sierra Leone to a high of 86 for the waters surrounding the uninhabited Jarvis Island in the Pacific.  In general, the other highest-scoring locations are densely populated and highly developed, while developing nations tend to be more likely to score low.

Halpern says that’s because developed countries tend to have stable governments, more resources and a stronger economies, which gives them the ability to pay more attention to environmental stewardship.

Unlike previous similar studies which focus only on the negative impact of human activity, the OCI is the first global assessment to combine both natural and human dimensions of ocean sustainability, according to Halpern. The study considers people as part of the ocean, not  as separate negative influences on the ocean.

“This index is really trying to reframe the discussion around, not just how we are impacting the ocean, but how the ocean impacts us,” said Halpern.

He adds the OCI provides a way to look at how human activities decrease or increase the ability of the ocean to provide us the things that we want, such as food, economic and recreational opportunities.

Ben Halpern joins us this weekend on the radio edition of Science World.  Check out the right column for scheduled air-times or listen now to the interview below.

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Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

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