The Ocean Health Index for Israel

The Ocean Health Index for Israel

A healthy marine environment can provide a range of services to humans now and in the future. The World Ocean Health Index assesses the ocean’s ability to fulfill ten important public aims: food provisioning, artisanal fishing opportunities, natural products, carbon storage, coastal protection, coastal livelihoods and economies, tourism and recreation, sense of place, clean waters and biodiversity. The index is a tool for advancing ocean management policy and can demonstrate the effects of policy changes, such as increasing the area of marine reserves or fishery management, on ocean health.

The World Index was developed by NCEAS – National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California. HaMaarag completed adaptation of the World Ocean Health Index to Israel’s region of the Mediterraneawin Sea, working closely with NCEAS, and in partnership with researchers, policy-makers and interested parties, determined local targets for the components of the index. This is the first time that such an index has been calculated by those who did not develop it.


שושנת המטרות של מדד בריאות הים לישראל

Calculation of the score for each target comprises two weighted components: the current status and the short-term forecast. The status relates to the current situation with respect to the target. Conversely, the forecast relies on the trend of the last five years, as well as an estimation of the difference between existing pressures on services provided by the sea to sources of strength.

Categories of pressure include: sea pollution, habitat destruction, fishing pressure, invasive species, climate change and social pressures. In contrast stand the sources of strength: regulation (for example, international treaties, to which Israel is obligated), and social and ecological integrity. For each benefit the different pressures and sources of strength are evaluated separately.

The score obtained for each target ranges from 0 to100. A high score represents closeness to the target and a positive forecast for the near future, while a low score represents the opposite situation. Both over-exploitation and under-exploitation of a resource will result in a low score.

Calculation of the overall score is conducted under the assumption that each target is of equal importance and equal weight in calculating the scores (each sub-target receives half the weight). This assumption has a significant influence on the final score, but was made in the absence of an alternative formal policy.


Clean Waters (97)

How was this state calculated? Level of cleanliness as a function of waste pollution, nutrients, disease carriers and heavy metals.

Target: Coasts clean from garbage at least 70% of the time and water clean of pollutants.


Natural Products (62)

How was this state calculated? Current level of consumption and sustainability of the production process of non-food marine products. In Israel the main product is desalinated water.

Target: Sustainable production of 750 cubic meters of water by the year 2020.


Sense of Place (45)

This is divided into two sub-targets:

Protection of Flagship Species (63)

How was the state calculated? Level of protection of species with emotional and cultural value (marine mammals, sea turtles, sharks, Batoidea, Scyllarides latus (Mediterranean Slipper Lobster) and grouper, according to the categories of the IUCN red list.

Target: Releasing Israel’s marine flagship species from the threat of extinction.

Protection of Special Sites (28)

How was the state calculated? Assessment of the level of protection of places with cultural, emotional and esthetic value: the number of declared reserves relative to the number of proposed reserves, the level of exposure of archaeological sites to damage by trawlers, and the level of success of environmental battles.

Targets: Declaring 10% of Israel’s territorial waters as marine space protected by law by 2020, according to Israel’s obligations under the Barcelona Treaty. In addition, protectin Israel’s marine and coastal archaeological sites from the moment they are discovered, against hoarding activity and removing the threat of construction and development of beaches over which public battles are being waged.


Coastal Protection – the Sandy Coast (77)

How was the state calculated? The level of protection of the coastal dunes, by natural coastal dune vegetation, against storms and floods.

Target: Reconstructing the sandy beach that existed in 1970, six years after the Mines Ordinance came into force, and prior to most of the construction activity along the coastline.


Biodiversity: Protecting Marine Species and Habitats (75)

Marine Species (90)

How was the state calculated? Level of protection of marine species for which information is available, according to the categories of the IUCN red list.

Target: Releasing all marine species from the threat of extinction.

Habitats: the Soft Seabed and the Sandy Coast (61)

How was the state calculated? Level of damage to the seabed, including assessment of the area ‘ploughed’ by trawlers relative to the potential area available for trawling.

Target: Absence of disturbance by trawlers on the soft seabed.

The sandy coast: Targets are detailed in the section ‘Coastal Protection’.


Food Provisioning (13)

This is divided into two sub-targets: aquaculture and fisheries, and their relative contributions to the score are determined by the ratio between the marine aquaculture yield and the fish catch. Correct to 2012, this ratio stands at approximately 0.5.

Marine Aquaculture (15)

How was the state calculated? According to the sustainability of the process: Assessment of the yield relative to the target and to sustainability of the breeding process (source of fingerlings, breeding method, source of feed).

Target: Breeding over 8000 tonnes of fish in the sea according to the targets for 2020, while evaluating the sustainability of the breeding process.

Fish Catch (12)

How was the state calculated? Assessment of the sustainability of fishing based on data of the entire fish catch as well as models, as detailed in Halpern (2013)*.

Target: Maximizing fishing without affecting the future fish catch.


Artisanal Fishing Opportunities (25)

How was the state calculated? Assessing the sustainability of the coastal fish populations as expressed in the fish catch over many years, by the methods described in Elfes et al. (2014)**.

Target: Sufficient fish abundance to enable fishing for personal consumption or for local commerce.


Tourism and Recreation (64)

How was the state calculated? By comparing the number of rooms, occupancy relative to targets and sustainability of tourism in Israel.

Tourism in coastal cities

Target: Development to accommodate local tourism targets for the year 2020, to enable maximal occupancy of hotels in coastal cities (Netanya, Herzliya, Bat Yam, Tel-Aviv), and to maximize the number of visitors to coastal nature reserves and national parks (Achziv, Dor-Habonim, Caesaria, Beit Yanai, Apollonia and Ashkelon).

Tourism in Coastal Nature Reserves and National Parks

Target: Maximal number of visitors in each of the sites: Achziv, Dor-Habonim, Caesaria, Beit Yanai, Apollonia and Ashkelon.


Coastal Livelihoods and Economies (100)

Protection of coastal and beach-dependent jobs and of a productive coastal economy. This is divided into two sub-targets:

Livelihoods (100)

Target: Protection of the number of sea-dependent and coastal jobs and growth of incomes from these jobs (tourism and fishing from the fish catch) alongside incomes in the state economy.

Economy (100)

Target: A moving temporal comparison of income from marine industries such that it will progress together with the annual yield from all sectors of the economy.


Carbon Storage: removed from the index

Measurement of carbon storage by natural systems – sea grasses, mangroves and tidal swamps, for 100 years or more. We decided to remove this target because carbon storage by ecosystems in Israel’s region of the Mediterranean Sea is not significant.


The ‘Heart, Sea’ Competition

In honor of the launch of the Ocean Health Index for Israel, we ran a photo competition on the topic of the relationship between man and the sea. Ninety photos, representing the relationship between man and the sea, from both positive and negative perspectives, were submitted to the competition. First place went to a photo titled “On The Beach”, by Oded Dekel, second place went to a photo titled “Accidental Fish ” by Shevy Rothman, and third place to “Lone Fisherman” by Liat Yavneh Ripp. The winners were announced at the launch, at the Conference of the Israel Society for Ecology and Environmental Sciences in September 2014

The full photo album from the competition can be seen here.


מקום ראשון בתחרות לב ים: On the beach/עודד דקל       מקום שני בתחרות לב ים: דג לוואי/שבי רוטמן        מקום שלישי בתחרות לב ים: דייג בודד/ליאת יבנה ריפ