Marine Health Report Card: U.S. Waters In the Gutter With a 'D'

New ocean health index ranked 172 nations.
Waves crash on Zulma Beach, California. (Photo: Mike Powell / Getty Images)

Oct 19, 2012· 0 MIN READ
A six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council, Jon writes about all things ocean.

To try and stem the tide of ocean abuse around the world—including overfishing, plastic pollution, the impacts of climate change and acidification—some of the smartest minds in the science, conservation and business worlds have over the last five years combined forces to come up with a way to encourage cleaning up some of the worst of the ocean’s problems.

The initial Ocean Health Index, announced in August, is the creation of Conservation International, the National Geographic Society, New England Aquarium, and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

It is the result of sending more than sixty scientists around the globe to evaluate ecological, social, economic and political factors for every coastal country, feed data into a computer and coming up with a grade.

MORE: 5 Radical Ways to Fight Ocean Acidification

The Index ranks each of 172 nations with a coastline. The goal of giving grades is to incentive countries, and businesses, to clean up and invest in ocean protection.

The results? Well, they're particularly shocking and tragically sad.

On a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the top, the highest score was given to the isolated Jarvis Island in the South Pacific, with an 86. (Obvious insight: The further an island is from mankind and all of our pollutint activities, the cleaner its ocean will be).

The lowest went to the African nation of Sierra Leone, which garnered a pathetic score score of 36.

The United States scored a 63, tying it for twenty-sixth on the list, snugged in between Pitcairn and the Ukraine. The average score was 60, or a 'D'.