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Why Are Iconic Species Important?

Iconic marine species are those whose unique importance is recognized through traditional activities, ethnic or religious practices, existence value, or locally acknowledged aesthetic value.  

Species harvested solely for economic or utilitarian purposes are not included, nor are habitat-forming species (mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass meadows, salt marshes), as they are assessed in association with other goals.  

Goal Score

66 The goal score for Sub-Goal: Iconic Species is 66 out of 100. The global average score is 71 out of 100.

Likely Future State


It is estimated that in the near future the score for Sub-Goal: Iconic Species will improve roughly +14%.
global score

What Does This Score Mean?

The reference point for Iconic Species is that all relevant marine species are categorized as “least concern.” Least concern means that a species has been assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) or Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA) and is not endangered, threatened, vulnerable or at risk of extinction.

A high score indicates that few to none of the iconic species in a country’s EEZ have been categorized by the IUCN as endangered, threatened or vulnerable. A low score indicates that many are in those categories.

Current Score
The current score indicates that iconic marine species are not as well protected as possible. Substantial conservation efforts will be required in order to improve the status of many iconic species that call the ocean home.

Some iconic species, such as baleen whales, have been successfully protected, and a number of small whales and dolphins, birds, fish, sea turtles and others have been protected in specific regions. Subsequent growth of these populations suggests that similar efforts could result in substantial improvements to this sub-goal score.

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