How Healthy Are Canada’s Oceans?
Credit: von Lohmann

The Results Of The Ocean Health Index Are In. How Did Canada Perform?

The Ocean Health Index is a yearly report that uses ten measured goals to create an index that rates the health of the world’s oceans as a group, as well as the health of the oceans surrounding each individual country.

This year’s report shows that the cumulative score for our oceans globally was unchanged from last year. At 65 out of 100, there is room for better management of oceans to continue to benefit the humans – and animals – that rely upon them for survivial.

The lowest sub-score worldwide is in the ‘Natural Products’ goal. This is a measure of how non-food ocean products are used. The sub-score of 31 out of 100 indicates that sponges, ornamental fish, shells, seaweeds and coral products are being harvested at a non-sustainable rate.

With an overall index score of 68 out of 100, Canada is doing better than the world as a whole, but there is still need for improvement. We rank 61 out of 220 countries that have coastal land, which is lower than other industrialized countries such as Germany and Denmark.

Although our overall score is slightly lower than last year, the Healthy Ocean Index is expected to improve over the next few years due to ecological resilience and social pressures.

As a country, Canada’s lowest scoring rank is in ‘Tourism & Recreation’. With a sub-score of 24, coastal tourism in Canada needs a lot of improvement. The goal is measured indirectly, using the amount of employment in the tourist sector to estimate coastal tourism. Much of the Canadian coastline is wild, rather than marketed, and it is possible that the sub-score is artificially low.

One area in which Canada excels is in protecting the oceans. With a ‘Coastal Protection’ sub-score of 98, Canada is well above the global average of 69, meaning that the country has done well to maintain or restore seagrass meadows, salt marshes and sea ice.

With an ‘Artisanal Fishing Opportunities’ sub-score of 99, Canada also exceeds the global sub-score of 95. This goal is a measure of how well the needs of artisanal fishing – fishing on a small, local scale – are being met in a lawful and sustainable manner.

As global awareness increases, more countries will have the opportunity to address concerns at a local level. Only by caring for our own back yards will we be able to improve the overall health of the world’s oceans.