A whale shark and a diver. The oceans that cover most of the Earth’s surface provide people not only with food and livelihoods; they also can give us a sense of wonder. A new assessment system looks at ocean health through the lens of oceans’ benefits to humans.
Globally, the world’s oceans ranked 60 out of 100 on the new index of global health. This map shows rankings for each country’s waters.
Among the 10 goals for ocean health, the index assesses the oceans’ ability to provide food, either grown or caught, and the opportunity for small-scale fishing operations upon which many people, particularly in the developing world, rely for food.
According to the index, tourism isn’t just about bringing money into a coast region, there is a value of experiencing and enjoying coastal areas. Here, divers visit with a tiger shark.
Oceans provide resources other than food. Seaweed, like this brown kelp, can be eaten or used in other ways. For instance, the sugars in the kelp are a promising source of biofuel.
Unfortunately, overfishing, coastal development, pollution and other human activities have altered marine ecosystems, eroding their capacity to provide what people need from them, write the authors of the index. Above, Japanese longline fishermen catch southern bluefin tuna from waters near New Zealand.
In Japanese waters, massive jellyfish blooms, like this one, have increased interfering with fishermen. Jellyfish blooms are often blamed on overfishing, pollution and other human activities, although some scientists say there is no evidence they are increasing globally.