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The Ocean Health Index uses the term ‘targeted harvest’ to signify the deliberate capture of iconic species, i.e. those that are relevant to local cultural identity through ethnic or religious practices and existence value. Many iconic species are protected from harvest through local policy or international treaty, but some continue to be harvested for commercial purposes, subsistence needs, or traditional reasons. Targeted harvest does not include unintentional deaths from entanglement, fisheries bycatch or other causes.

How Was It Measured?

Targeted Harvest is a pressure component for Iconic Species. The Ocean Health Index uses data from the FishStatJ database compiled by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) regarding the targeted catch of cetaceans and marine turtles. Data from the latest year available are used.

For both cetaceans and marine turtles the summed catch was rescaled from 0-1. Beginning in 2015, the scale was set so that 1 = the 95th quantile of harvest for all years of data across all countries, i.e. that value below which 95% of all measured values fall.  (In previous years, 1 = 110% of the maximum value across all countries.)  The scores for cetaceans and marine turtles were averaged to create a single ‘targeted harvest’ score, which was used as a pressure score for calculating the Iconic Species subgoal of Sense of Place.

What Has Been Done?

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was established in the 1940s, under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, to ensure the conservation and management of whale stocks. Worldwide regulations provide for the protection of certain species, designate whale sanctuaries, set limits on harvest and capture size, define whaling seasons and zones and prohibit the capture of juvenile whales. In 1982, the IWC enacted a ban on the harvest of all whales, with the exception of limited catch for aboriginal groups and scientific research; the ban went into effect in 1987. 

Existing regulations in many countries also prohibit whale hunting, including the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and New Zealand’s Marine Mammals Protection Act of 1978.


Threatened or endangered marine turtle species are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and by regulations in a number of countries. Non-governmental organizations such as the Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana, Sea Turtle Conservancy, Sea Turtle Foundation and World Wildlife have programs dedicated to conserving sea turtles and their habitats.   

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