In broad strokes, ocean literacy refers to understanding the ocean’s influence on you and your influence on the ocean.
Expanding on that, the seven essential principles of ocean science are spelled out below.
- Ocean Literacy Principle #1 The Earth has one big ocean with many features.
- Ocean Literacy Principle #2 The ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of Earth.
- Ocean Literacy Principle #3: The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate.
- Ocean Literacy Principle #4: The ocean makes the Earth habitable.
- Ocean Literacy Principle #5: The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems.
- Ocean Literacy Principle #6: The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected.
- Ocean Literacy Principle #7: The ocean is largely unexplored.
The dedicated group of Americans, who coined the phrase, and defined the principles, had thirty marine scientists onboard for the process. Then they went on to collaborate with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) educators, to build a K – 12conceptual frame-work linked to US, Next Generation, National Science Standards and STEM curriculum everywhere.
Portugal embraced the principles of ocean literacy almost a decade ago through its own process with Ciência Viva. Now Portugal is ahead of everyone, in adopting and adapting the conceptual science framework, embedding ocean literacy into the school system, moving beyond science and into history, geography, arts and culture and the national consciousness. Canada, the US and the EU are following suit in their own ways, as signatories to the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation.
Ocean Literacy is more than just a bullet point in the Galway Statement, which starts with this acknowledgement:
“Recognizing the importance of the Atlantic Ocean to our citizens, human health, prosperity and well being, adaptation to climate, other environmental change and security, …”
An additional quote from the Galway Statement, sums up the resolve to include societal understanding and valuation of the ocean.“We further intend to promote our citizens’understanding of the value of the Atlantic by promoting ocean literacy. We intend to show how results of ocean science and observation address pressing issues facing our citizens, the environment and the world and to foster public understanding of the value of the Atlantic Ocean.”
The impetus from the EU to reach this agreement can be found in their Action Plan for a Maritime Strategy in the Atlantic area and a similar commitment from high levels, including heads of state, is clear.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is leading the Galway Canadian Marine Working Group which is focused on five areas of tripartite cooperation:
- Ocean Health and Stressors
- Ocean Observation and Prediction
- Information Management and Dissemination
- Characterization of the Seafloor and the Sub-surface
Within the Canadian working group, ocean literacy is included within bullet point number three and the two co-leads for ocean literacy were identified and started to participate in the working group in early winter, 2015. Tom Sephton, Bedford Institute of Oceanography and Anne Stewart, Canadian Network for Ocean Education (CaNOE) are working together as co-leads for ocean literacy. It was as co-lead on ocean literacy, that I was able to attend the Galway Tripartite Implementation meeting in Brussels. It is important to understand that this is a long-term agreement. It is still very early days for the working group and particularly for the ocean literacy leads. Input, information, comments, suggestions and support are fully encouraged.
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 where ocean literacy was recognized to be important for informed citizenry and leadership beyond curriculum, as well as within the classroom, K – 16. TOL workshops were conducted in Plymouth (2013) and Goteborg (2014), in collaboration with the European Marine Science Educators Association (EMSEA). As a participant in these activities, I can attest that the spirit of intent at these TOL workshops was to foster ocean literacy throughout the transatlantic countries involved, not just those parts or provinces that border the north Atlantic basin. Also emphasized and reiterated were the links with other parts of the global ocean, specifically including Arctic – Atlantic connections which are included in the Statement. The Plymouth TOL workshop produced a report and published a Vision Statement on TOL. Both a TOL workshop report and a TOL implementation plan followed from the Goteborg workshop (I can send these to you if you are interested.). The European Commission was represented and involved throughout this TOL activity.
The European Commission continues to support advances in transatlantic ocean literacy through Blue Growth, which is the EU’s long-term strategy for sustainable growth in the marine sector. Blue Growth is recognized, as an economic driver with great potential for innovation and ocean literacy is part and parcel. Investing in Blue Growth, the European Commission, put out several Horizon 2020 calls, for EU-specific proposals to advance ocean literacy. This European investment runs parallel to implementation of the Galway Statement and in my opinion, ups the ante, for multilateral support.
We are progressing quickly, taking into consideration the size of the players (EU, US and Canada). The first two Galway implementation, meetings followed the signing; Washington DC in 2013 and Ottawa, late in 2014. The third tripartite meeting, was the February 23, 2015 meeting that I attended. Held in Brussels at the Marine Resources Unit of the Bio-economy Directorate, part of the European Commission (EC) Directorate-General for Research & Innovation, I believe it was the first tripartite meeting to truly embrace the topic of ocean literacy.
The morning session was a plenary; hosted by Sigi Gruber, Head of the Marine Resources Unit, our delightful taskmaster for the day. Opening remarks by John Bell (EC, Research and Innovation), Terry Schaefer (USA, NOAA) and Trevor Swerdfager, (Canada, Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Oceans – Science) set a very comfortable tone for the day, while reviewing accomplishments. Ocean literacy bubbled through comments, adding zest to remarks on jobs, economy, innovation, environment, exploration and research. These gentlemen clarified that we were all there to advance the realization of the Galway Statement. A tour of the table and introductions followed with many participants engaged in the other two topics; Seabed Mapping and Aquaculture. Updates on follow-up activities to the Galway Statement came next and I concentrated on the ocean literacy presentation by Gaelle LeBouler (EC), filling in for Paula Keener, (NOAA) who was grounded by a blizzard in the US.
Gaelle spoke of the relative “newness” of ocean literacy and need to better structure transatlantic ocean literacy. Gaelle noted the need to develop strategies to boost ocean literacy on both sides of the Atlantic and briefed the group on the 2014 TOL workshop and its consensus to adopt the seven principles of ocean literacy while adapting/adopting the conceptual framework. Gaelle brought us up to date on the Blue Growth calls; BG-13, BG-14, the proposal responses and current status. Nine of the 12 BG-13 proposals submitted had Canadian and US participation and two of these are to be funded for several million Euros to start in spring 2015. It should be noted that Canadians and Americans are not eligible for this funding. The proposal under discussion for BG14 – Coordination and Support Action (CSA) to Support the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance, also included a work package dedicated to ocean literacy. These three ‘winning’ proposals are in the process of working out agreements, in transition from the proposal stage to projects to be launched mid-April.
- Sea Change through the Marine Biological Association (MBA) (UK)
- ResponseABLE through the University of Brest (FR)
- Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Coordination and Support Action (AORAC-SA) through the Marine Institute (Foras na Mara), Galway, (IE)
Representatives of the three proposals presented briefly to the whole group. Peter Hefferen of the Marine Institute presented on the BG-14, AORAC-SA proposal mentioning partners including ICES, PLOCAN, IFREMER, IMR, Spain and Ciência Viva. He explained that they would be working on governance, coordination and communication, including research priorities, expert workshops, knowledge sharing and shared access to infrastructure. Peter noted that they would be supporting and coordinating with the efforts of the two BG-13 groups and that they would be uniting around the common theme of working hard to meet the Galway agreement.
Fiona Crouch of the MBA presented on the Sea Change proposal, remarking that this consortium of 17 applicants encompasses multiple European/International organizations and multi-disciplinary partners, including diverse expertise in ocean literacy, marine science education, social innovation and behavioural change. Focus on the interdependence of human well-being and ocean health would be addressed through education, engagement and governance. The over-arching goal would be to bring about fundamental change in the way European citizens see themselves in relation to the ocean and to empower them to act sustainably towards healthy seas. A baseline review of good ocean literacy practices and current marine education programs, will lead into communication and education campaigns, possibly incorporating citizen science. There are plans for a legacy component. Fiona reported that Sea Change would work closely with both ResponSEAble and AORAC-SA and looks forward to needed, coordination of efforts.
Denis Bailey of the University of Brest, presented on the ResponSEAble proposal, which has 15 partners, a mix of large research groups, NGOs and enterprise. This group would map links between society and benefits of the sea as well as society’s influence on the sea. They would use social science to see what works in a cost-efficient way and broaden the scope for identified topics to produce ocean literacy products and good communication that is tested in a live-laboratory.
Time for discussion was made after the seabed mapping and aquaculture presentations and before the breakout sessions. Several remarks touched on the broad importance of ocean literacy. Joao Ribeiro, Portugal, commented on specifically on the importance of engaging youngsters, the career and employment links and the need for the Atlantic Action Plan to be in day to day thinking. The following point-form notes touch on some of the discussion points and I apologize for not being able to attribute individual speakers, difficult to identify from where I sat.
- IODP ocean drilling program as model for international research cooperation, capacity building and direct connections to seabed mapping, deep oceans and science-policy interfaces
- Joint Program Initiative (JPI) on Healthy and Productive Seas and Oceans JPI Oceans conference May 7, with ecological impacts of deep-sea mining and micro-plastics on agenda.
- Partnership for Global Observation (POGO) European Optical Society (EOS) meeting on optics in the sea, May 12/13. European Marine Board is planning a brainstorming workshop, to bring together science communicators and oceanographers to make recommendations.
- Atlantic Integrated Observing Systems and issues with broader inter-disciplinary training for post-graduates
- Arctic/Atlantic linkages and opportunities to further develop cooperation, modeling after ICES. Fish stocks moving northward with climate change, Arctic Council involved
- Pilot, climate change, citizen (EU, US, Canada) science program launching soon
- Germany holds the G7 leadership this year and topic of marine litter is on agenda. JPI Oceans already engaged in ocean plastics, a lot going on.
- Ocean plastics could easily be taken up at the political level, as a low-hanging fruit
At this juncture and mention of food, it was time to move.
The ocean literacy break-out group moved by foot and metro to a different location. It was all very efficient. We ate lunch en route at an EC cafeteria and were soon seated around a smaller table, joined via videoconference by Paula Keener, NOAA, Peter Tuddenham, College of Co-exploration and my co-lead on ocean literacy Tom Sephton, Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The topic-specific, break-out group gave the opportunity to learn more about the specific proposals’ work plans, the nitty-gritty of their rationales and some of the other activities going on. I include point-form notes.
- 17 partners
- US & Canadian advisers
- Designed to bring positive change to how European citizens relate to the sea
- Empowering ocean literate citizens who take steps towards healthy seas & oceans, healthy communities & a healthy planet
- Deeper understanding of how health of citizens depends on ocean health
- Review knowledge outputs on links between ocean & human health
- Use social change methodologies, change agents, embed across networks & established strategic initiatives
- Build on what has been done, evaluate on sustainability, effectiveness, efficiency
- Leave a legacy to continue beyond project life & ensure more active role of citizens
- Baseline Review in collaboration with ResponSEAble
- Dissemination & Communication in coordination with ResponSEAble. This public awareness campaign will include these aspects.
- Two way process, dialogue, exchange, including mutual gain of knowledge from EU, US & Canadians (both ways)
- Strong evaluation & impact processes throughout to identify what works & what doesn’t work
- Digging into the complexity of how society & ocean relates, translated broadly into various forms of communication
- Publicly accessible and structured knowledge base
- Guidance developing OL activities with:
- Sound practices
- Real life applications
- Communication activities developed in Europe
- Diverse North American partners,
- Will work very closely with other OL projects
- Want to enable society to be able to ‘see into the water’
- Specific work package on OL led by Ana Noronha from Portugal
- Human & institutional dimensions are important
- It will be an outgrowth of Galway agreement
- Event planned in Lisbon, June 5th, in concert with Blue Economy and a special edition of the Economist is planned
- Significance is high profile, the people & projects are very encouraging should be able to change perspectives
- Many complementarities with other projects
Next was a presentation on the EU Atlas of the Seas, and again I include my point-form notes.
- Accessible to public with easy mode
- Advanced mode for professional user, a lot of data, energy, transport, marine protected areas, etc.
- The closer you get to shore, the more information there is
- Visualization tool with data from different sources
- Simple mode, complex modes–make connections between aspects, meta information, data sources, add maps & layers
- Includes information on the Arctic
- How can this tool contribute to OL efforts?
Ward Appletons of UNESCO and the International Oceanographic Council (IOC) presented next on some of their many OL activities.
- 147 member states‐ocean research programs
- Global capacity for marine science observations
- Healthy ocean ecosystems, early warning for hazards, building resilience, emerging knowledge issues, traditional ecological knowledge issues
- Science knowledge to societal benefit, capacity development
- Education for sustainable development,
- UNESCO roadmap, international involvement in OL, TEK,
- Academic, professional development, sharing, OL community of practice, guidelines for public information.
- Ocean Teacher (Be) 1400 people (Flanders Govt.), now going global, training the trainers, 1st w/ data management then will expand
- Art competition, Day of Seas & Ocean, Ocean challenge badge
- Open access data information, data publication, Sea Change plug‐in
- Ocean climate platform, UNESCO on campus, Surfrider etc.
Some of the discussion that followed is encapsulated here.
- There is lots going on in ocean literacy internationally.
- There is a need to operationalize and come up with tangibles.
- Concrete suggestions – for OL brochures to be put in seat pockets of flights, OL articles in inflight magazines, additions to digital flight maps on international airlines with information on ocean below
- Identified that goodwill is needed, for everyone, to reach out to their contacts and be willing to share. It was also reiterated that defined, specific, and common goals would be part of major projects. Fiona noted that they are still open to ideas, for the public campaign that you want to see.
There was a brief discussion about the extent of Ocean Literacy: whether it should be global, since it is really one ocean, or transatlantic only? Then, if transatlantic only, should it be north basin only or should it include southern Atlantic? It was noted that there is serious and tangible Brazilian and South African interest in cooperation. There seemed to be consensus to start with a basin approach (the north-Atlantic with Arctic connections) as a good way to move forward toward global OL and to best reflect the Galway Statement.
One topic that had a short and very positive discussion was the Endorsement and/or Adoption of Ocean Literacy Principles in Europe. Sigi suggested using the seven principles as a way to move together successfully. There was total agreement. Under the topic of Seabed Mapping & Ocean Literacy, Paula (NOAA) suggested using concept mapping to help map out the diverse contributions to transatlantic ocean literacy that participants bring to the table. She suggested this as a way to help understand and fit the complex pieces together. This was well received, especially by those familiar with the Concept Linked Integrated Media Builder (CLIMB) used by Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) at the University of Maine. This concept-mapping tool is effectively used to make sense of complex ocean systems and ocean learning complexity.
The group ran out of time for comment on the last topic entitled Contribution of Stakeholder’s Roadmap and we made our way back to the larger, group wrap-up session, to report back.
The whirlwind of a meeting was over and I headed out into nighttime Brussels in search of chocolate. As I walked the cobblestone streets, between the neoclassical facades, and gothic gargoyles, antique architecture dominated the scene. I reflected on the day, the people, and their mix of interests, yet common will, to implement the Galway agreement. This international movement bodes well for ocean literacy in Canada. We are committed from the highest level nationally, the Canadian Galway Marine Working Group has ocean literacy on its agenda and the two co-chairs are working together to further ocean literacy in Canada. CaNOE has been well launched and with over 200 members is gaining momentum. It actually feels a bit like we are shooting the rapids and heading for the sea.
Unabashed, promotional addendum to meeting notes.
The table is set for Canada to collaborate internationally on ocean literacy. To get our own house in order, an increase in coordination and communication would further good practices and allow celebration of on-going efforts, while we advance to the next stage. The Canadian Network for Ocean Education CaNOE provides a pan-Canadian platform with momentum. CaNOE hosts the first conference on Ocean Literacy in Canada, June 17 & 18 in Vancouver, BC and you are all invited.
The results of an initial survey of Canadian scientists on the seven principles of ocean science literacy will be presented then. The anticipated adoption of the principles by Canadian scientists will provide a Canadian foundation for common OL messaging. The simple survey takes < five minutes, total. If you belong to a Canadian marine or aquatic science association that would be willing to be surveyed, please let me know.
More francophone participation in CaNOE, en français, is also needed. CaNOE is having an election of a new board at the June 17 AGM and we are recruiting now for the new board now to pull together for ocean literacy in Canada. Suggestions welcomed.
These notes are not official transcripts or minutes, they are just my notes, translated into a blog that I write about ocean literacy. I would like to correct any errors, omissions or misunderstandings, so please contact me with comments.
Anne Stewart <>
Post Script – The Launch of Horizon 2020 BG13 and BG 14 happened in Brussels, April 16, 2015. Link here to more information