HaMaarag recently launched the Ocean Health Index for Israel, which is the local version of the World Ocean Health Index (OHI). The index operates under the assumption that a healthy marine environment can provide a range of services to humans now and in the future, and thus it assesses the extent to which the services provided us by the oceans are being used and whether they are sustainable. The Ocean Health Index for Israel sets a worldwide precedent, being the first local version of the World Ocean Health Index, that wasn’t calculated by those who developed the index. The world index was adapted by HaMaarag for the Mediterranean Sea and for Israel, working closely with NCEAS, who developed the international index, and with Conservation International.
The index gives scores to the state of nine main services. It calculates a score for each target based on the current status (the current state with respect to the sustainable target) and the short-term forecast. The selected services are: Food Provisioning (13), Clean Waters (97), Natural Products (62), Sense of Place (45), Coastal Protection (77), Biodiversity (75), Artisanal Fishing Opportunities (25) Tourism and Recreation (64), and Coastal Livelihoods and Economies (100). The weighted average of all the scores gives us a score of 62 out of 100. This score is not to be compared with scores of other countries on the world index, since it has been adapted specifically to Israel, but rather with the scores that the index will receive in the coming years.
The gaps between the different target scores are surprisingly large. While Clean Waters and Economies received high scores, Fish Catch received only 12 out of 100 – the lowest score. The Mediterranean Sea suffers from overfishing, that is fishing of more fish than the system can produce. This phenomenon is not unique to the Mediterranean Sea – the demand for protein throughout the world is increasing; the marine ecosystems cannot bear the burden and they are going out of balance. This is one example of the importance of this index, which presents to decision makers a general picture of the state of the benefits that the marine environment provides humans. Thus it is possible to demonstrate the effects of changes in policy, such as increasing the area of marine reserves or fisheries management, on ocean health.
HaMaarag’s staff, headed by Dr. Anat Tsemel and Dr. Aviad Scheinin, worked hard over the last year to calculate the index, as part of HaMaarag’s activities concerning the Mediterranean Sea. It was launched at the annual conference of the Israel Society of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, at which the winning photos of the ‘Heart, Sea’ competition, conducted in honor of the launch of the index, were presented.
The Ocean Health Index for Israel is designed to be open and accessible to the public and not only to scientists. To this end, a website will be set up for the index, which will be directed to the public and will include explanations about its components, as on the website of the world index. Until the website is set up you are welcome to become familiar with the index here.