Measuring Sea Sickness
How well do coastal countries protect their seas? That was the question explored by a team of researchers whose results were published today in the journal Nature. Looking at ten goals for “a healthy coupled human-ocean system,” the Ocean Health Index team concludes that the average score was 60 out of 100, with the lowest score (36) going to West Africa’s Sierra Leone and the highest (86) going to Jarvis island, halfway between Hawaii and the Cook Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
Jarvis benefits from being uninhabited and isolated, so it’s a bit of a ringer. Not surprisingly, developed nations fared better than developing ones in criteria that included the amount of food provided from the ocean, coastal and water protection, tourism, and contribution to climate change. The U.S. scored 63, which put it in 29th place.
Ten of West Africa’s 11 ocean areas were judged the least healthy in the world. Sierra Leone, writes the Guardian, "which has suffered a decade of civil war, whose seas are ravaged by foreign industrial fishing fleets, and which has little protection of its coastline or waters and barely any tourism, scores the least, with 36 points out of 100 – just below Liberia, Ivory Coast and DR Congo.”
The researchers hope the Ocean Health Index “provides a powerful tool to raise public awareness, direct resource management, improve policy and prioritize scientific research.”
Image of fishing boat in Sierra Leone by iStock/lcoccia
Reed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”