Good for Business and Good for the Ocean

Tourism and biodiversity are among the Ocean Health Index goals. Photograph courtesy Valerie Craig.

On June 8, people from around the world take a moment to celebrate the beauty and bounty of the oceans on World Oceans Day.  It tends to be a day crowded with announcements from every ocean advocacy organization, which is both exciting and a bit dizzying – it’s easy for important individual messages to get lost in the buzz.

One of Saturday’s announcements is worth repeating because it comes from a voice not often heard in connection with ocean conservation: the World Economic Forum.

The forum “engages business, political, academic, and other leaders to shape global, regional and industry agendas.” Through its Global Agenda Council on Oceans, the World Economic Forum has endorsed two solutions to ensure the long-term health of the ocean, specifically focused on improving the management of ocean resources for the future: the Ocean Health Index and seafood traceability. (Check out the great interactive that explains the roles of these important tools.)

Fish is the most-traded food commodity, yet there are no standardized systems for tracking it from its source to the consumer. The need to improve traceability of seafood is clear – to reduce the trade of illegally caught seafood, prevent seafood fraud, and increase accountability at all points in the seafood supply chain.

Yet, while there are numerous traceability prototypes in use in different parts of the world, there is no system yet in place for tracking all seafood from wherever it comes from. The World Economic Forum, with it’s connections with business and political leaders, may be able to raise the issue and stimulate development of more global systems in a way that has not been possible to date.

On the other hand, the Ocean Health Index is a tool that exists now and can be used by decision makers around the world to improve the management of their marine resources. The Index measures individual countries against 10 goals, including food provision, biodiversity, and livelihoods and economies.

This index allows countries to evaluate the effects of individual policies, and to prioritize those areas that can both improve the health of the ocean and the economic sustainability of communities and businesses. Since the index scores are updated annually, countries can monitor progress and make adjustments along the way.

Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. Ocean-related resources and industries are estimated to contribute over $3 trillion per year to the global market.

Given our dependence on this precious resource, it’s past time we took stock of where we stand in managing it and actively begin to think of how we restore the health of the ocean for future generations.

Valerie Craig is Senior Director of National Geographic Society's Ocean Initiative. She was previously a Manager with National Geographic's Explorer Programs, working primarily on ocean and freshwater issues and overseeing the Lindblad-National Geographic Fund. Prior to joining NGS in May 2011, Valerie led TRAFFIC North America’s marine fisheries trade work, focusing on issues of legality and traceability in the seafood supply chain. Valerie earned a Master's of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and has a Bachelor’s in International Relations.

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