Ocean literacy and unlocking a revolution in ocean science solutions |

As part of this push, the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is calling on the world to join the revolution to unleash innovative solutions for marine science. UN News spoke to experts inside and outside the UN system demonstrate the importance of ocean literacy.

empower people to take action

Ocean literacy is commonly defined as an understanding of the ocean’s impact on you and your impact on the ocean.

However, Francesca Santoro, who is in charge of ocean literacy at UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), explained that the definition goes beyond that.

“It’s really about empowering people with tools to better use that knowledge of the oceans to become more responsible and make decisions that affect ocean resources, and do it in a more informed way. It’s really about understanding how much the oceans impact our lives and how much we can impact the ocean both positively and negatively.”



© Ocean Image Bank/Ben Jones

Moken children swim in the Myeik Archipelago in Myanmar.

As the focal point for marine sciences within the United Nations system, the IOC leads the UN Decade of Marine Sciences for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) and supports marine research organizations around the world to increase public engagement.

“The IOC works mainly to strengthen international cooperation in the fields of ocean science and marine research – how no single country can conduct research in all ocean basins alone‘ Ms. Santoro continued.

critical moment

That Decade of Ocean Science is an opportunity to change the state of the oceans for the next 100 years.

Earlier this year, UNESCO launched a campaign to empower people to join the global Generation Ocean movement.

The idea is to use transformative storytelling to connect citizens with marine knowledge and drive action to restore, protect and live better with the sea.


In an interview with UN News, Vinicius Grunberg Lindoso, communications officer at UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, described how you can be a game changer at this critical moment.

Students as active agents of change

Some of the IOC’s flagship programs examine the particular impacts of climate change on the ocean and how the ocean can be viewed as the best ally in the fight against climate change.

In close cooperation with schools, teachers and educators The UN Science Agency uses findings from its marine research to develop lesson plans.


Aquariums help young children discover the aquatic kingdom in an immersive environment.

© Unsplash/Tim B. Motivv

Aquariums help young children discover the aquatic kingdom in an immersive environment.

“We develop a range of resources – brochures, videos or games – and use them to work with schools around the world to engage people from a young age, from elementary school through high school. We use an approach that includes not only learning objectives, but also what we call social emotional learning objectives and behavioral learning, because we want students to become active agents of change – so they can participate in initiatives that support ocean conservation ‘ Ms Santoro stressed.

blue schools

In Portugal, co-hosting with Kenya the UN Ocean Conference taking place from June 27th to July 1st, the Oceano Azul Foundation plays an important role in developing literacy and conservation practices.

The foundation works to educate children about climate in Portugal and wants more children to learn about marine issues and how they affect the oceans. So, as they grow into decision-makers, no matter what career they choose, they will have an important role to play.


A Diamond Stingray and One-Eyed Porcupine Fish search the sand for a meal while hundreds of Big Eye Jacks swarm behind them.

© Nicolas Hahn

A Diamond Stingray and One-Eyed Porcupine Fish search the sand for a meal while hundreds of Big Eye Jacks swarm behind them.

Samuel Collins, program manager at Oceano Azul, explained to UN News how the initiative works: “We need to provide information in a way that is digestible for different age groups. But given the importance of these issues and the impact they will have on the near future of today’s generations, we have a responsibility to provide certain information to the youth.”

Together with Oceanario de Lisboa, Oceano Azul has a program to educate the blue generation, train teachers and provide the curriculum and resources to carry the message in the first cycle of education.

They’re going to do math, but they’re going to talk about fish, they’re going to learn French, they’re going to talk about the ocean, they’re going to write history but integrate oceanography, so it just reinforces the curriculum by looking through a blue lens. They come to the Oceanario, they do a lot of amazing activities and they are excited because there is huge potential in a healthy ocean and it is important to strengthen it.”

The program aims to provide ocean literacy to all children living in Portugal, with a particular focus on the 5-9 age group.


According to the Foundation, using Portugal as a starting point in the case of literacy will nevertheless allow replicating policies in other countries, particularly Portuguese-speaking and developing countries.

Lagoon Nursery

Not far away in Italy, Venice has exemplified the dynamic interaction between man and nature for centuries, underscoring its ability to act as a model for other similar ecosystems.

Due to its ideal characteristics and its UNESCO World Heritage designation, “Venice and its Lagoon” was chosen as the implementation site of the pilot edition of the “Lagoon Kindergarten” initiative, launched last May.

The new educational program, based on promoting principles of ocean literacy and interaction with the environment, aims to foster a close connection between children and nature through the use of outdoor activities and interactions with the local community.


Children participate in drawing activities at an ocean awareness event in Venice, Italy.

IOC-UNESCO

Children participate in drawing activities at an ocean awareness event in Venice, Italy.

Classes of 25 kindergarten children receive thematic lessons, conducted through outdoor pedagogy, aimed at discovering the ecosystem of the lagoon. Creative suggestions and drawings follow at the end of each lesson.

In partnership with the Prada Group, UNESCO hopes to empower youth to become the future generation Ocean.

The international community must make education one of the pillars of its action on the oceans and engage in education to help today’s youth take responsibility and conscious citizens of tomorrow,” said Ana Luiza M. Thompson-Flores, Director of the UNESCO Regional Office.

Lisbon: Enlarge

The ocean literacy community will gather in Lisbon, Portugal for the UN Ocean Conference to ensure that ocean literacy is seen as a central element of ocean action.

“The last UN ocean conference [in 2017, in New York], Ocean Literacy was still in its infancy, but now we can really prove that we were able to achieve important results, such as B. Promoting the presence of Ocean Literacy in formal education and we have a growing network of blue schools around the world. But we need to scale this up, ensure ocean literacy initiatives take place around the world, and strengthen collaboration to share best practices between different stakeholders,” Ms Santoro told UN News.

in Lisbon, A high-level Ocean Decade Alliance Meeting will be held on the first day of the 2022 conference, followed by an Ocean Decade Forum on June 30to convey a message of action, partnership and inclusivity.


“My other expectation is that our community will be more and more inclusive of stakeholders. At the moment we have mostly scientists and educators, but I think we need journalists, for example, the media to help us make sure that the ocean is in the media and that people become more aware of the importance of the ocean in the future this planet,” she added.

Creative community is “crucial”

UNESCO has planned a series of events for the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon – including exhibitions such as the Ocean Decade Creative Exhibition in the city’s main square and a Generation Ocean Concert at the Rock in Rio festival on June 26. These events engage the global creative community and aim to raise awareness of marine science and conservation.

For Ms. Santoro, collaborating with the creative community is “vital, especially as we are more aware that our emotions drive action. To work [more in depth] with artists, photographers, strengthens people’s ability to feel more connected to the sea or to rediscover how connected we are to it. The creative community really helps us find that emotional part of our connection with it – so we need to work together, scientists and artists, to design and develop projects together. Regardless of whether you are a scientist, journalist, artist, politician or work in the private sector. We should all come together and have a common vision and goal,” Ms. Santoro concluded.

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