Connecting to the oceans: supporting ocean literacy and public engagement

Rachel Kelly*, Karen Evans, Karen Alexander, Silvana Bettiol, Stuart Corney, Coco Cullen-Knox, Christopher Cvitanovic, Kristy de Salas, Gholam Reza Emad, Liam Fullbrook, Carolina Garcia, Sierra Ison, Scott Ling, Catriona MacLeod, Amelie Meyer, Linda Murray, Michael Murunga, Kirsty L. Nash, Kimberley Norris, Michael OellermannJennifer Scott, Jonathan S. Stark, Graham Wood, Gretta T. Pecl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-143
Number of pages21
JournalReviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries
Early online date10 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Communication
  • Education
  • Future seas
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Ocean literacy
  • Sustainable 2030

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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