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Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics

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ESEP 21:1-9 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esep00196

OPINION PIECE
Making ocean literacy inclusive and accessible

Boris Worm1,*, Carla Elliff2, Juliana Graça Fonseca3, Fiona R. Gell4,5, Catarina Serra-Gonçalves6, Noelle K. Helder7, Kieran Murray8, Hoyt Peckham9, Lucija Prelovec10, Kerry Sink11,12

1Ocean Frontier Institute, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS B3H4R2, Canada
2Instituto Oceanográfico, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP 05508-120, Brazil
3Departamento de Biologia Marinha, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Niterói, RJ 24001-970, Brazil
4Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture, St. John’s, Isle of Man IM4 3AS, British Isles
5University College Isle of Man, Douglas, Isle of Man IM2 6RB, British Isles
6Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia
7Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E9, Canada
8Fauna & Flora International, Phnom Penh 12302, Cambodia
9SmartFish AC, La Paz 23000, México
10Ocean School, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS B3H4R2, Canada
11Institute for Coastal and Marine Research, Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth 6031, South Africa
12South African National Biodiversity Institute, Cape Town 7735, South Africa
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Engagement in marine science has historically been the privilege of a small number of people with access to higher education, specialised equipment and research funding. Such constraints have often limited public engagement and may have slowed the uptake of ocean science into environmental policy. Recognition of this disconnect has spurred a growing movement to promote ocean literacy, defined as one’s individual understanding of how the ocean affects people and how people affect the ocean. Over the last 2 decades, this concept has gained significant traction in marine biology and environmental education circles and now plays a prominent role in the UN’s Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). Here, we argue that the ocean literacy agenda has largely been shaped and discussed by marine scientists and educators but needs to be expanded to a much larger constituency to be more effective, accessible and inclusive. We discuss diverse cultural settings from around the world and provide examples of indigenous, spiritual, art, ocean user and other groups that are already deeply engaged with the ocean and could provide a variety of perspectives to enrich the ocean literacy concept beyond an understanding of marine science. We suggest that such inclusiveness could remove the historic barriers that have surrounded the field, transform our collective awareness of and relationship with the ocean and help support ongoing efforts to restore marine biodiversity.


KEY WORDS: Ocean literacy · Diversity · Science-policy interface · Environmental education


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Cite this article as: Worm B, Elliff C, Fonseca JG, Gell FR and others (2021) Making ocean literacy inclusive and accessible. Ethics Sci Environ Polit 21:1-9. https://doi.org/10.3354/esep00196

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