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Connecting to the oceans: supporting ocean literacy and public engagement

  • Kelly, Rachel1
  • Evans, Karen2
  • Alexander, Karen1, 3
  • Bettiol, Silvana1
  • Corney, Stuart1, 3
  • Cullen-Knox, Coco1, 1
  • Cvitanovic, Christopher1, 4
  • de Salas, Kristy1
  • Emad, Gholam Reza5
  • Fullbrook, Liam1, 1
  • Garcia, Carolina1
  • Ison, Sierra1, 2
  • Ling, Scott3
  • Macleod, Catriona1, 3
  • Meyer, Amelie3
  • Murray, Linda6
  • Murunga, Michael1, 3
  • Nash, Kirsty L.1, 3
  • Norris, Kimberley1
  • Oellermann, Michael3, 7
  • And 4 more
  • 1 University of Tasmania,
  • 2 CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Castray Esplanade, Hobart, TAS 7001 Australia
  • 3 Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Hobart, TAS 7001 Australia
  • 4 Australian National University,
  • 5 University of Tasmania Newnham,
  • 6 College of Health, Massey University,
  • 7 Technical University of Munich,
  • 8 Australian Antarctic Division,
Published Article
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries
Publication Date
Feb 10, 2021
DOI: 10.1007/s11160-020-09625-9
PMID: 33589856
PMCID: PMC7875172
PubMed Central


Improved public understanding of the ocean and the importance of sustainable ocean use, or ocean literacy, is essential for achieving global commitments to sustainable development by 2030 and beyond. However, growing human populations (particularly in mega-cities), urbanisation and socio-economic disparity threaten opportunities for people to engage and connect directly with ocean environments. Thus, a major challenge in engaging the whole of society in achieving ocean sustainability by 2030 is to develop strategies to improve societal connections to the ocean. The concept of ocean literacy reflects public understanding of the ocean, but is also an indication of connections to, and attitudes and behaviours towards, the ocean. Improving and progressing global ocean literacy has potential to catalyse the behaviour changes necessary for achieving a sustainable future. As part of the Future Seas project ( ), this paper aims to synthesise knowledge and perspectives on ocean literacy from a range of disciplines, including but not exclusive to marine biology, socio-ecology, philosophy, technology, psychology, oceanography and human health. Using examples from the literature, we outline the potential for positive change towards a sustainable future based on knowledge that already exists. We focus on four drivers that can influence and improve ocean literacy and societal connections to the ocean: (1) education, (2) cultural connections, (3) technological developments, and (4) knowledge exchange and science-policy interconnections. We explore how each driver plays a role in improving perceptions of the ocean to engender more widespread societal support for effective ocean management and conservation. In doing so, we develop an ocean literacy toolkit, a practical resource for enhancing ocean connections across a broad range of contexts worldwide. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (10.1007/s11160-020-09625-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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