The first global quantitative assessment of ocean health has been undertaken by a team of international scientists, including fisheries researchers at the University of British Columbia.
Though the health of the world's oceans was given a score of 60 out of 100, the researchers noted that more efforts are needed to further improve it.
To calculate the overall score, ecological, social, economic, and political conditions were evaluated for every coastal nation in the world.
The scores for individual countries ranged widely: from Sierra Leone, with a failing scores of 36, to Jarvis Island, an uninhabited, relatively pristine island in the South Pacific, with the highest scores of 86.
Canada is among the top performers with a score of 70 while the U.S. received 63 and the U.K. received 62.
Researchers from UBC's Fisheries Centre were responsible for measuring the amount of seafood that is sustainably generated by fisheries and marine aquaculture for human consumption.
"Fisheries are one of the most important 'services' the ocean offers us, and one of the areas where we're making the biggest impact on the sustainability and ecosystems of the ocean," said Kristin Kleisner, a postdoctoral fellow with the Sea Around Us Project and a co-author of the study.
"The Ocean Health Index offers an excellent framework to assess if things are getting better or worse in response to our actions," noted Daniel Pauly, principal investigator with the Sea Around Us project and the study's co-author.
"Although Canada did comparatively well, it has so far set aside only one per cent of its waters as marine protected areas. We would like to see progress in this area and others," he added.
The study's lead author, Ben Halpern from the University of California, Santa Barbara, says the scores provide a baseline against which to measure future change and the effectiveness of our efforts.
The Ocean Health Index has been published in the journal Nature.