Ocean literacy is defined as having an ‘understanding of the ocean’s influence on you and your influence on the ocean’. On an individual level this translates into an ocean literate person being someone who:
understands the importance of the ocean to humankind; can communicate about the ocean in a meaningful
way; and is able to make informed and responsible decisions regarding the ocean and its resources (Cava et al. 2005, French et al. 2015).
A VERY SHORT HISTORY of OCEAN LITERACY
The concept of Ocean Literacy was developed by a large group of scientists and educators from the ocean sciences education community in the United States around 2001. They goal was to address the lack of ocean-related content in the school curriculum and instructional materials. They comprised two consensus documents, a work of many years : Ocean Literacy: The Essential Principles of Ocean Sciences K-12
(also known as the 7 Ocean Literacy Principles); and Ocean Literacy Scope and Sequence for Grades K-12
(also known as the Scope & Sequence which is comprised of 28 conceptual flow diagrams). The Ocean Literacy principles remain a work in progress; they reflect the efforts to date defining ocean literacy. Both of these documents are available on the website www.oceanliteracy.net
next to the full story how the ocean sciences education community came together to create these documents and ignite a movement within ocean sciences and beyond.
The National Marine Educators Association
) in the United States is the largest community of marine educators worldwide. Their annual conference draws about 300 to 500 formal and informal educators from high schools, public aquariums, non-profit NGOs, and government agencies together for five days of learning, sharing, and networking. They made repeated contributions to ensure marine and ocean subjects were included in the national curriculum called the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). NMEA also supports global participation in marine education and the promotion of ocean literacy intenrationally. Over the years, their International Committee in particular supported the creation of marine education networks such as IPMEN, EMSEA and AMEA (see further).
The International Pacific Marine Educators Network
) had its first conference in Honolulu in 2007, and has since continued to hold a conference every two years in different locations around the Pacific.
One of the first ocean literacy projects in Europe using the model from the USA was the Portuguese Conhecer o Oceano (Knowing the Ocean)
. The Portuguese National Agency for Scientific and Technological Culture, Ciência Viva, launched in 2011 a version of the ocean literacy principles adapted to the Portuguese reality, linked to the Portuguese science curriculum.The website http://www.cienciaviva.pt/oceano offers relevant education materials, research publications, ocean policy documents, school projects and professional development opportunities.
The First European Conference on Ocean Literacy
was held in Bruges, Belgium, in 2012 as a result of inspiration and encouragement from NMEA members. It was hosted by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) and the European Marine Board (EMB). The result of this conference was the formation of EMSEA
. This conference was also followed by a statement of the marine scientific community in Europe to urge a European consensus on ocean literacy (Navigating the Future IV’ , McDonough et al. 2012
Ocean literacy has since this conference been seen as a prerequisite for the European Union's quest for a more marine-oriented economy and society. A more informed and concerned public will better understand the need to manage the ocean resources and marine ecosystems in a sustainable way. The European Horizon 2020 initiative has in 2015 provided for a number of ocean literacy initiatives in Europe within the EU Blue Growth program
. The four projects that began in 2015 are:
The SeaChange project aims to encourage citizens to take direct and sustainable action to protect the seas by increasing their ocean literacy on the links between oceans and human health. The overall concept of the project is that ocean literate citizens will take decisions and push for policies that lead to a healthier planet. The project will achieve its objective by initiating citizen-focused education initiatives with a consortium managed by the Marine Biological Society (MBA), including of 17 European/International Organizations such as UNESCO/IOS, Ciência Viva, European Marine Board, CEFAS, AQUATT, NUIG, UGOT, VLIZ, ECSITE etc
These projects are supported by the EU Maritime Affairs Directorate and are in alignment with the Statement on TransAtlantic Cooperation on Ocean Research
signed in Galway in May 2013. The European Union, The United States and Canada agreed to join forces on Atlantic Ocean Research. The Galway Agreement was the first Agreement who took up the concept of ocean literacy in its goals. Significant transatlantic ocean literacy activity has gone on since the signing at Galway. Transatlantic Ocean Literacy (TOL)
has been the focus of several international workshops conducted at EMSEA Plymouth (2013)
, EMSEA Goteborg (2014)
and at DTU (2015)
The College of Exploration, who has been a crucial driver for many of the ocean literacy initiatives and networks, including EMSEA, started in 2014 the Global Ocean Science Education Workshops
). They bring together ocean scientists and ocean educators from across the globe. The Global Ocean Science Education Workshops are now co-sponsored and facilitated by the international Consortium for Ocean Science Exploration and Engagement (COSEE) and the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).
In the mean time, two more marine education networks were established: The Canadian Network for Ocean Education (CaNOE
) in 2014 and the Asia Marine Educators Association (AMEA
) in 2015.
At the United Nations Ocean Conference (5-9 June 2017) in New York, UNESCO-IOC conceived the “Ocean Literacy for All”
initiative The initiative figures on The Ocean Conference Registry of Voluntary Commitments alongside other commitments undertaken by Governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, the private sector, scientific institutions and other stakeholders toward the implementation of the first UN Sustainable Development Goal on the ocean: 14 – to conserve and sustainable use our ocean