An index to assess the health and benefits of the global ocean

Benjamin S. Halpern, Catherine Longo, Darren Hardy, Karen L. McLeod, Jameal F. Samhouri, Steven K. Katona, Kristin Kleisner, Sarah E. Lester, Jennifer Oleary, 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 ElfesMichael 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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

489 Scopus citations


The ocean plays a critical role in supporting human well-being, from providing food, livelihoods and recreational opportunities to regulating the global climate. Sustainable management aimed at maintaining the flow of a broad range of benefits from the ocean requires a comprehensive and quantitative method to measure and monitor the health of coupled human-ocean systems. We created an index comprising ten diverse public goals for a healthy coupled human-ocean system and calculated the index for every coastal country. Globally, the overall index score was 60 out of 100 (range 36-86), with developed countries generally performing better than developing countries, but with notable exceptions. Only 5% of countries scored higher than 70, whereas 32% scored lower than 50. The index provides a powerful tool to raise public awareness, direct resource management, improve policy and prioritize scientific research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)615-620
Number of pages6
Issue number7413
StatePublished - Aug 30 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements B. Wrigley and H. Wrigley provided the founding grant. Additional financial and in-kind support was provided by the Pacific Life Foundation, Thomas W. Haas Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the Oak Foundation, Akiko Shiraki Dynner Fund for Ocean Exploration and Conservation, Darden Restaurants Inc. Foundation, Conservation International, New England Aquarium, National Geographic, and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, which supported the Ecosystem Health Working Group as part of the Science of Ecosystem-Based Management project funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. We would like to thank L. Bergen, J. Bort, B. Bronson, C. Costello, N. Crone, A. Dickson, J. Francis, A. Ghermandi, R. Haskell, L. Kaufman, K. Law, L. Madin, P. Nuñes, D. Obura, L. Onofri, J. Packard, R. Portela, N. Rao, J. Regetz, S. Running, K. Selkoe, L. Speer, B. Spitzer, P. Stevick, H. Tallis, H. Tausig, S. Troeng and D. Zeyen for helpful discussions and logistical support during development of the index. Individual authors also acknowledge additional support from NSF, NASA, NOAA, Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions and the Jaffe Family Foundation. K.K., D.P., U.R.S. and D.Z. thank the Sea Around Us Project, with support from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Data reported in this paper are tabulated in the Supplementary Information and archived at http:// Results can be explored and visualized at http://


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