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

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'.

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A six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council, Jon Bowermaster has spent the past two decades circling the world’s ocean, studying both its health and the lives of the people who depend on it. He is the author of 11 books (his most recent, OCEANS, Threats to Our Seas and What You Can Do to Turn the Tide, was published by Participant Media) and producer of a dozen documentary films. His blog—Notes From Sea Level—reports daily on issues impacting the ocean and us. Follow Jon on Facebook. @jonbowermaster  |  Email Jon |