(NaturalNews) Data collected as part of the official 2013 Ocean Health Index (OHI) has been publicly released, and some scientists say it points to a challenging future for humanity. Based on the figures, the oceans of the world simply will not be able to sustainably produce enough food to feed the world's growing population, especially if overfishing, pollution and various other harmful practices continue unmitigated.
As relayed by Futurity.org, the new study looked at the progress of 10 different public goals for the world's oceans, which include things like the sustainable harvesting of seafood, the effectiveness of coastal protection programs and the general livelihood of coastal economies. Each category was rated on a scale of 0 to 100 using various criteria, and a final score was tabulated for overall ocean health, also known as a Global Index Score.
This year, the world's oceans were rated a 65 out of 100, which is up slightly from last year's score. But not every category saw improvements, with noteworthy declines in several key categories. The "Clean Waters" category, which measures water pollution, saw a decline of 0.3 percent, while "Tourism & Recreation" saw a decline of 0.4 percent. The worst category was "Food Provision," which saw a full 1 percent decrease compared to its 2012 score, indicating an overall decline in sustainable seafood production.
As far as this year's scores, struggling categories include "Tourism and Recreation" and "Natural Products," which clocked in at 39 and 31 respectively. Another category of major concern, just like last year, was "Food Provision," which measures seafood output from both wild-caught and ocean-farmed commercial fisheries in terms of its sustainability. The second-worst category on the scale, Food Provision, registered at a dismal 33 out of 100, which some experts say points to food supply problems in the future.
"Seafood is a major source of protein for one-third of the world's population, and it is estimated we will need 70 percent more food by 2050 to feed the growing population," says Daniel Pauly, principal investigator of the Sea Around Us project and leader of the team of OHI science contributors hailing from the University of British Columbia in Canada. "The score of 33 out of 100 for food provision indicates we are not ready to meet that challenge."
Oceans providing more jobs, improved livelihoods for local communities; better sustainability practices still needed
At the same time, some areas of the scale saw improvements, including "Coastal Livelihoods & Economies," which measures the success of coastal economies in creating high-quality, high-paying jobs. Wealthier countries also attained higher scores on the OHI overall compared to poorer or sparsely-inhabited countries, indicating that development and progress can actually improve the health of our oceans when sustainable resource management practices are followed.
"In its second year now, the OHI demonstrates that the areas with the least human impact have healthier oceans, but it also shows that nations who manage their resources better achieve higher OHI scores," adds Ben Halpern, a research associate at the University of California, Santa Barbara's National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.
"We depend on the health of the ocean for many benefits, such as food, livelihood, and tourism, and the OHI indicates that the condition of these benefits needs to be improved in order to provide a healthy, thriving ocean for our children and their children."
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