This goal assesses the ability of countries to maximize the sustainable harvest of living marine resources that are not consumed as food by humans, such as sponges, fishoil and fishmeal, shells, seaweeds, mangrove wood, and fish for the aquarium trade.

Similar to Food Provisions, this goal is trying to capture the value of goods sustainably harvested by the ocean. While Food Provision focuses on goods for human consumption, Natural Products assesses non-food goods. As these two goals often share similar data sources, it may be time-saving for the goal keepers of these two goals to work together and gather data.

Practial Guidance

STEP 1: Identify the products in your study area

The first is to identify the products in your study area. For example, does your study area have corals, ornamental fishes, sponges? Does your area yield medicines from the sea, or other products that are not used for nutrition? Does your area harvest drinking water from the ocean through desalination plants? Is there a kelp or seaweed industry in your area? If there are multiple uses of the product, you must also consider what proportion of the product is used for food, and what proportion is used for other purposes. As another example, oil from marine mammals was considered but excluded from the global model, but if a region has a considerable amount of mammal oil harvest, they should include it in the calculation, keeping in mind that the sustainability of this type of harvest is likely to be low and should be reflected in the score.

This goal does not include bioprospecting which focuses on potential (and largely unknowable and potentially infinite) value rather than current realized value, or non-living products such as oil and gas or mining products which by definition are not sustainable.

STEP 2: Gather the data

After identifying the natural products to include in the model you will need to find the appropriate data. Ideally, you will find information about the quantity and location of species harvested (tonnes), the sustainability of the harvest practice, and, potentially, the value of the product.

The global assessment includes seaweed (the portion not consumed by humans as food, see Table 6.12 in methods), fishoil/fishmeal, and ornamental fish. We excluded some natural products due to a lack of global data (e.g., mangrove wood harvest), or being highly variable (e.g., shells), or non-sustainable (e.g., mammal oil and coral). However, localities could use different criteria.

In the global assessments, the tonnes and value of the natural product harvest is from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Administration. These data are compiled and reported by product for each country.

The goal model should also incorporate an indicator of sustainability for each product. It is possible to measure sustainability in a number of different ways. Quantitative information can be used, or expert judgment, perhaps based on information or rough estimates of the sustainability of the harvest method.

For the global assessment, we assess sustainability in several ways. In the case of fishoil/fishmeal, we filter the Fisheries subgoal data to include only the fish stocks used for fish oil/meal (see table 6.12 in methods. For seaweed mariculture we use the mariculture sustainability scores from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

STEP 3: Determine the reference point

The next thing to consider is the reference point for the harvest amount for each product. Setting the reference point is a decision your team must make based on the available data and an inferred functional relationship between the harvest of the product and the amount in the system. For example, knowing whether product yields change due to market demand vs. changes in the underlying population can help inform the reference point. This information could help inform whether it is more appropriate to set the reference point as the peak yield of the time-series, or some percentage above or below, or some other approach that is both ambitious and realistic (SMART principles). The decision you make for the reference point should be based on the trend of the data; for instance, if your harvests have only increased over time, which may be indicative of an emerging economy, you will have to account for that.

STEP 4: Combine all the information

The status of each natural product is estimated separately based on a model that takes into account harvest amount relative to the reference point and the sustainability of the harvest.

The status values of the individual products are then averaged. The contribution of each product to the average can be weighted by tonnes of harvest or the value of the harvest.

Examples of the Approach

Assessment Developing the Model Setting the Reference Point Other Considerations
Global 2012 The products used were coral, ornamental fish, fish oil, seaweeds and marine plants, shells, and sponges. Data were from the UN FAO. Each category was weighted by the sustainability of harvest. For the status of each product, we assessed the most recent harvest (in metric tons) per region relative to a fraction of the maximum value (in 2008 USD) ever achieved in that region. 65% of its historic maximum of natural product yield. Some products of interest had no data available.
Global 2013 - 2015 The goal model had the same approach as Global 2012, with updated data processing. The reference point was the same as the Global 2012. The study produced new gapfilling methods. This used estimated US dollar values of harvested products from the tonnage reported, or the tonnage harvested based on a product’s reported economic value.
Brazil 2014 The method was the same as Global 2012. The reference point was the same as Global 2012. The approach was the same as Global 2012.
U.S. West Coast 2014 This goal was not included in this assessment due to lack of data availability. N/A There were too few data available on local-scale harvest, and in the past had occurred mostly in one Californian region. Including this goal in the assessment would have lowered the overall Index score.
Israel 2014 Desalination from sea water was assessed for this goal. The status of this goal is calculated as the ratio of the yield of desalination and a target yield. A Desalination Sustainability was also developed and incorporated. The target desalination yield set by the Israel Water Authority for year 2020. The collection and trade in natural resources, such as aquarium fishes and corals are prohibited by law in Israel, but Israel relies heavily on sea water desalination to provide drinking water for over half the households. Therefore, desalination was incorporated into the index for this goal.
Ecuador-Gulf of Guayaquil 2015 The approach is the same as the Global assessment. Four natural products were considered: corals, fish oil, ornamental fish and seaweed. A temporal reference point was used for each natural product: the maximum historical value achieved for each product in each study area. N/A
China 2015 Status model is the same as in global assessments. Three natural products were assessed: sea salt, chemical products, and bio-pharmaceuticals. The reference point was the 5-year production average due to large disparities in production among provinces. The set reference point resulted in high scores since it is easy to achieve a 5-year average.