16 August 2012

Singapore ranked low in global ocean health index

Singapore is ranked "among the worst performers" in a global index that aims to measure the seas' ability to provide food and recreation while also sustaining sea life.
From "An index to assess the health and benefits of the global ocean" in Nature
The highest-scoring locations included densely populated, highly developed nations such as Germany, as well as uninhabited islands, such as Jarvis Island in the Pacific.

The Index highlights how people are not just part of the problem, but also a major part of the solution.

"We recognize the Index is a bit audacious," said lead author Ben Halpern. "With policy-makers and managers needing tools to actually measure ocean health -- and with no time to waste -- we felt it was audacious by necessity."

"The Ocean Health Index is unique because it embraces people as part of the ocean ecosystem. So we're not just the problem, but a major part of the solution, too."

"This is the first time that we can quantitatively and directly compare and combine hugely different dimensions -- ecological, social, economic, political -- that define a healthy ocean."

The Index emphasizes sustainability, penalizing practices that benefit people today at the expense of the ocean's ability to deliver those benefits in the future.

The Index also hopes to provide strategic guidance for ocean policy: By re-envisioning ocean health as a portfolio of benefits, the Ocean Health Index highlights the many different ways in which a place can be healthy. Just like a diversified stock portfolio can perform equally well in a variety of market conditions, many different combinations of goals can lead to a high Index score. In short, the Ocean Health Index highlights the variety of options for strategic action to improve ocean health.

The scores on individual goals varied by country. Here are the 10 goals upon which the ranking is based:

1) Food provision: This goal refers to the amount of seafood a country catches or grows, all sustainably, from its waters.

2) Artisanal fishing: The opportunity for the small-scale fishing efforts that are particularly crucial in developing nations.

3) Natural products: The sustainable harvest of living, non-food natural products, such as corals, shells, seaweeds and fish for the aquarium trade. It does not include bioprospecting, oil and gas or mining products.

4) Carbon storage: The protection of three habitats, mangroves, seagrasses and salt marshes, which store carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere and therefore mitigating global warming.

5) Coastal protection: The presence of natural habitats and barriers, including mangroves, coral reefs, seagrasses, salt marshes and sea ice, which physically protect coastal structures, like homes, and uninhabited places, like parks.

6) Coastal livelihoods and economies: Jobs and revenue produced from marine-related industry, alongside the indirect benefits of a stable coastal economy.

7) Tourism and Recreation: The value people place on experiencing and enjoying coastal areas, not the economic benefit which is included in coastal economies.

8) Clean waters: Whether or not waters are free from oil spills, chemicals, algal blooms, disease-causing pathogens, including those introduced by sewage, floating trash, mass kills of organisms and oxygen-depleted conditions.

9) Biodiversity: The extinction risk faced by species as well as the health of their habitats.

10) Sense of Place: Aspects that people value as part of their identity, including iconic species and places with special cultural value.

Media articles about the Index on wildsingapore news.

Journal Reference: Benjamin S. Halpern, Catherine Longo, Darren Hardy, Karen L. McLeod, Jameal F. Samhouri, Steven K. Katona, Kristin Kleisner, Sarah E. Lester, Jennifer O’Leary, Marla Ranelletti, Andrew A. Rosenberg, Courtney Scarborough, Elizabeth R. Selig, Benjamin D. Best, Daniel R. Brumbaugh, F. Stuart Chapin, Larry B. Crowder, Kendra L. Daly, Scott C. Doney, Cristiane Elfes, Michael J. Fogarty, Steven D. Gaines, Kelsey I. Jacobsen, Leah Bunce Karrer, Heather M. Leslie, Elizabeth Neeley, Daniel Pauly, Stephen Polasky, Bud Ris, Kevin St Martin, Gregory S. Stone, U. Rashid Sumaila, Dirk Zeller. An index to assess the health and benefits of the global ocean. Nature, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nature11397

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