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Israel Publishes First Independent Ocean Health Index Assessment

In November, the Mediterranean country of Israel became the first to publish the results of an independent Ocean Health Index (OHI) assessment, which reveals that the nation has an overall ocean health score of 62 out of 100. Independent assessments, known as OHI+, integrate local data, targets, priorities, and cultural preferences to assess ocean health. The information obtained allows for comparison of performance among regions and for comparison of ocean health within a region over time. This assessment provides local and national decision-makers with a management tool that combines multiple ocean elements into one single framework, allowing them to understand the tradeoffs inherent in decisions and to assess the effectiveness of management actions and policies on ocean health.

The Ocean Health Index assesses the health of the ocean in terms of the benefits and services it provides to people both now and in the future. Using a scale of 0 to 100, the Index produces scores for each of 10 categories called “goals”. The Index goals are Food Provision — Mariculture and Wild-caught Fisheries, Artisanal Fishing Opportunities, Natural Products, Carbon Storage, Coastal Protection, Livelihoods & Economies, Tourism & Recreation, Sense of Place — Lasting Special Places and Iconic Species, Clean Waters, and Biodiversity — Habitats and Species.

The highest scoring goals in the study area are Economies and Livelihoods (100), Clean Waters (97), and Species biodiversity (90), while Food Provision — Fisheries (12) and Mariculture (15) — Artisanal Fishing Opportunities (25), and Lasting Special Places (28) received the lowest scores. The study reveals likely near-term improvements in future scores for most goals. However, Iconic Species, Lasting Special Places, and Species Biodiversity are not likely to improve quickly.    

The study uses high resolution sub-regional level data in over 80% of the data layers, with the remaining 20% coming from global sources. In addition to using local data, some of the methods were modified in order to produce results that better reflect regional priorities. For example, the Natural Products model was modified to include desalinated water.

This assessment comes at a pivotal point in time as the health of the Mediterranean Sea has never been more crucial to Israel than now. Rapid urbanization of Israel and limited natural water supply has led to increased reliance on desalinized water from the ocean, which has reached the point where over 50% of the water supply for households comes from this source. 

The OHI+ assessment of the Israeli Mediterranean coast was led by Hamaarag, Israel's National Nature Assessment Program.