Scientists measure health of the world’s oceans

Scientists measure health of the world’s oceans

Ocean Health Index grades the health of the world's oceans: 60 out of 100.

Stanford University news recently reported on the Ocean Health Index, which gave the health of the world’s oceans a grade of 60 out of 100. An international team of researchers came to together to determine the condition of all the oceans in the world. The scientists involved gave out grades ranging from 36 percent to 86 percent. The average came in at 60 percent.

Even though a 60 percent is usually considered a failing or close to failing grade in most academic institutions, researchers involved are not looking at it that way. Larry Crowder, the director of the Center for Ocean Solutions who was part of the Stanford team, said it is better to think of the grade as a stock portfolio.

Crowder said the research looked at many factors including tourism, biodiversity, and protecting species. He explained that while one country may have scored well in one area, it might have done poorly in another, making the overall composite data a better way to determine whether the oceans are pulling a passing grade. “The Ocean Health Index is an aggregate of those scores,” he said. “It’s a device to help us think about the ocean in a more integrated way.”

The United States demonstrated this well as the country scored low in aquaculture and sustainable fishing, but finished with a just-above-average 63 percent. Although fisheries scored low for the U.S., Crowder thinks they will soon be getting better based on work already completed to improve the industry.

“The good news for fisheries in the United States is that although the stocks are reasonably depleted, trends in recent legislation have us on a track of rebuilding those stocks,” he said.

Crowder said there is a need for a strong policy to be put in place to endorse sustainable fishing. “The best condition for fisheries is not not fishing, but practicing sustainable fishing and providing those benefits to the fishing community,” he said. Crowder hopes those involved in the fishing industry will soon see the benefits sustainable fishing could have for the future.

The ultimate goal is that each country involved in the study will work on areas where they scored low. While there is not one simple way to fix the global health of the oceans, each country now knows their ocean’s weak points and can begin fixing them.

The study will be published in this week’s edition of the scientific journal Nature and was largely conducted by the Center for Ocean Solutions, a collaboration between the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, the Hopkins Marine Station at Stanford, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. The Center for Ocean Solutions works to educate people on the dangers facing the world’s oceans and to conduct research to help fix them. The next Ocean Health Index will likely be published in five years.

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