Simply put, ocean literacy is understanding the ocean and our relationship with it. But the ocean isn’t so simple to understand! That’s why the Ocean Literacy Framework was developed.

In the United States, a community of scientists, educators, governmental organizations (Centers for Ocean Science Educational Excellence and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency) and non-governmental organizations (National Marine Educators AssociationCollege of Exploration, and National Geographic) worked over ten years to develop the Ocean Literacy Framework. This framework provides not only a set of ocean literacy principles for grades K–12, but a conceptual tool to help educators build understanding in their students throughout their education.

Both the framework itself, Ocean Literacy: The Essential Principles of Ocean Sciences K-12, and the conceptual tool, Ocean Literacy: Scope and Sequence for Grades K-12, are available for free on the US Ocean Literacy website. The framework has also been successfully applied within post-secondary and public institutions.


In 2015, the United Nations Assembly set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to be achieved by 2030 in order to achieve a more sustainable future. The goals cover a broad spectrum, but it is SDG #14 that interests CaNOE the most: Life below water. The setting of this goal has created a wave of ocean literacy awareness on a global scale.

SDG #14 lead to the development of the Ocean Literacy Toolkit by UNESCO. The toolkit that delves into the history of ocean literacy, the framework, and easily adaptable activities for your geographical and cultural contexts. It is available for free in a variety of languages.

The UN took their commitment to the ocean even further by declaring 2021-2030 as the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO are currently working to design what’s to come in the decade and are dedicated in weaving ocean literacy throughout.


You can find more info about the principles on the Ocean Literacy website

Just like our global ocean, the framework is universal, so instead of starting from scratch, Canadian educators can adopt and build on its principles, integrating them into curricula and outreach activities.

What is Canadian Ocean Literacy?

CaNOE has explored this question since its inception. The quest culminated with the CaNOE’s 2018 third National Symposium on Ocean Literacy, which included a workshop on Canadian perspectives.

This co-created report to the question was formed through dialogue facilitated by CaNOE between 2013 and 2018. Please consider this answer as both a beginning and as an invitation to help shape what Canadian ocean literacy becomes in the third decade of the 21st century.

This report paints a picture of Canadian Ocean Literacy with broader strokes, and is distilled from many diverse answers to the same question, over the years. The need to keep refining our collective answer is essential. Please review and send comments to Canadian OL in the subject line.

Find the “What is Canadian Ocean Literacy” report here!