Founded by Conservation International, the National Geographic Society, and The New England Aquarium, the Ocean Health Index is an innovative approach to measure the health of our oceans annually, or whenever new data is available. Made up of 10 broad policy goals, ranging from water cleanliness to seafood provisions, the Index acts as a holistic measurement that encapsulates human values and the benefits reaped by the ocean. The overall goal of this common metric is to not only reveal the benefits received, but the tradeoffs among benefits and the impact of human activities on the persistence of ecosystem service/benefit delivery. Acting as a measuring stick, this Index aims to help policy makers and raise awareness of the threats facing our oceans. The higher the score, the more optimal the oceanic conditions and management are; the lower the score, the less optimal and a greater need for change.
The development of the Index was a difficult task, since some scientists claim we know more about outer space than we do our oceans. Limitations in available data, along with differing definitions of the word “health”, were hurdles that had to be overcome.
The first iteration of the Ocean Health Index was released in August 2012. The analysis was a collaborative effort made possible through contributions from more than 65 scientists/ocean experts. According to the initial analysis, the overall global ocean health score was 60 out of 100 (see graphic), indicating that the human-ocean relationship is out of balance and unsustainable. This initial score was later adjusted to 69 as more data became available and annual scores since then have been 70. Regional and Country-specific scores as well as goal-specific scores are also available.
In March 2016 the Ocean Health Index team announced the launch of their redesigned OHI-Science.org website, now the primary resource for Ocean Health Index (OHI) scientific information, tools and instructions. The redesigned website provides the most up-to-date information and methodologies for conducting an OHI+ assessment to current and future OHI users by incorporating the knowledge and experience gained through on-the-ground independent assessments.