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Oceans’ Health Gets a Barely Passing Score on Annual Index

How healthy are the world’s oceans? About the same as they’ve been for the past couple of years, which is to say not very, according to the Ocean Health Index, released Tuesday. Overall, the index gave the world’s oceans a 67 on a 0-100 scale, measuring 10 goals it says represent “key ecological, social, and economic benefits.” Those include such straightforward measures as “clean waters,” or pollution, but also people-related elements, such as “tourism and recreation,” meaning how well oceans can support tourism-related economics.

This is the third year the index has been produced by the University of California at Santa Barbara and Conservation International. But it’s the first to include waters around Antarctica and on the high seas –- previous efforts measured only coastal waters. Antarctica and the Southern Ocean rated a 72 overall, but also had the highest-scoring regional waters, at 93, off two island groups between Africa and Antarctica: the Prince Edward islands and the Heard and McDonald Islands. The worst-ranking seas, at 48, were those around Africa’s Somalia, Guinea Bissau and Eritrea.

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— Gil Aegerter