TOF’s Work in Ocean Literacy Over the Past Two Decades

As a community foundation, we know that no one can take care of the ocean by themselves. We connect with multiple audiences to make sure everyone has the critical awareness about ocean issues to drive change.

Over the past 20 years, The Ocean Foundation has moved more than $16M into the area of Ocean Literacy.  

From government leaders, to students, to practitioners, to the general public. For over two decades, we have provided accurate and updated information on key ocean issues.

Ocean literacy is an understanding of the ocean’s influence on us — and our influence on the ocean. We all benefit from and rely on the ocean, even if we don’t know it. Unfortunately, public understanding of ocean health and sustainability has been shown to be quite low.

According to the National Marine Educators Association, an ocean-literate person understands the essential principles and fundamental concepts about the functioning of the ocean; knows how to communicate about the ocean in a meaningful way; and is able to make informed and responsible decisions regarding the ocean and its resources. 

Unfortunately, the health of our ocean is in jeopardy. Ocean literacy is an essential and prerequisite component of the ocean conservation movement.

Community engagement, capacity building, and education have been pillars of our work for the past two decades. We have been reaching out to underserved populations, supporting international dialogue, and cultivating relationships to promote global ocean awareness since our organization’s inception. 

In 2006, we co-sponsored the first-ever national Conference on Ocean Literacy with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, and other partners. This event brought together senior government officials, experts in formal and informal education, nongovernmental organizations, and industry representatives to help lay the groundwork for developing a national strategy for creating an ocean-literate society.  

We have also:

Shared the information policymakers and government officials need to understand the state of play on ocean issues and current trends, to inform what actions to take in their home jurisdictions.

Offered mentoring, career guidance, and information sharing about key issues in the ocean and its connection to the global climate.

Facilitated practical training sessions on technical skills to assess, monitor, and study changing ocean conditions and rebuild crucial coastal habitats.

Curated and maintained a freely available, up-to-date Knowledge Hub resource on top ocean issues so that everyone can learn more.

But we have much more work to do. 

At The Ocean Foundation, we want to make sure the marine education community reflects the broad array of coastal and ocean perspectives, values, voices, and cultures that exist around the world. In March 2022, TOF welcomed Frances Lang. Frances has worked for more than a decade as a marine educator, helping to engage more than 38,000 K-12 students in the U.S. and in Mexico and focusing on how to address the “knowledge-action” gap, which presents one of the most significant barriers to real progress in the marine conservation sector.

On June 8, World Oceans Day, well be sharing more about Frances’ plans to take Ocean Literacy to the next level.