Changes in ocean health in British Columbia from 2001 to 2016


Effective management of marine systems requires quantitative tools that can assess the state of the marine social-ecological system and are responsive to management actions and pressures. We applied the Ocean Health Index (OHI) framework to retrospectively assess ocean health in British Columbia annually from 2001 to 2016 for eight goals that represent the values of British Columbia’s coastal communities. We found overall ocean health improved over the study period, from 75 (out of 100) in 2001 to 83 in 2016, with scores for inhabited regions ranging from 68 (North Coast, 2002) to 87 (West Vancouver Island, 2011). Highest-scoring goals were Tourism & Recreation (average 94 over the period) and Habitat Services (100); lowest-scoring goals were Sense of Place (61) and Food Provision (64). Significant increases in scores over the time period occurred for Food Provision (+1.7 per year), Sense of Place (+1.4 per year), and Coastal Livelihoods (+0.6 per year), while Habitat Services (-0.01 per year) and Biodiversity (-0.09 per year) showed modest but statistically significant declines. From the results of our time-series analysis, we used the OHI framework to evaluate impacts of a range of management actions. Despite challenges in data availability, we found evidence for the ability of management to reduce pressures on several goals, suggesting the potential of OHI as a tool for assessing the effectiveness of marine resource management to improve ocean health. Our OHI assessment provides an important comprehensive evaluation of ocean health in British Columbia, and our open and transparent process highlights opportunities for improving accessibility of social and ecological data to inform future assessment and management of ocean health.