Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. The Basics of Ocean Literacy
3. Behavior Change
3.1. Introduction
3.2. Application
3.3. Nature-Based Empathy
4. Communication Strategies and Engagement
5. K-12 Education
6. Ocean Education and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice
7. Standards, Methodologies, and Indicators
8. The Ocean, Jobs, and Economy

We’re working to translate ocean literacy into conservation action.

Read about our Community Ocean Engagement Global Initiative (COEGI).

Ocean Literacy: School Fieldtrip

1. Introduction

One of the most significant barriers to progress in the marine conservation sector is a lack of real understanding of the importance, vulnerability, and connectivity of ocean systems. Research shows that the public is not well-equipped with knowledge about ocean issues and access to ocean literacy as a field of study and viable career pathway has historically been inequitable. The Ocean Foundation’s newest core project, the Community Ocean Engagement Global Initiative (COEGI), was established in 2022 to address this problem. COEGI is dedicated to supporting the development of marine education community leaders and empowering students of all ages to translate ocean literacy into conservation action. To support this program, this research page is intended to provide a synopsis of current data and recent trends regarding ocean literacy and behavior change as well as identify gaps that The Ocean Foundation can fill with its Community Ocean Engagement Global Initiative (COEGI).

What is ocean literacy?

While the exact definition varies among publications, in simple terms, ocean literacy is an understanding of the ocean’s effects on people and the world as a whole. It is how aware a person is of the ocean environment and how the health and wellbeing of the ocean can affect everyone, along with general knowledge of the ocean and the life that inhabits it, its structure, function, and how to communicate this knowledge with others.

What is conservation behavior change?

Conservation behavior change is the study of how and why people change their behavior and attitude toward the environment, and how people may inspire more action to protect the environment. As with ocean literacy, there is some debate about the exact definition of conservation behavior change, but it routinely includes ideas that incorporate psychological theories with attitudes toward conservation.

What can be done to help address the gaps in education, training, and community engagement?

TOF’s ocean literacy approach focuses on hope, action, and behavior change, a complex topic discussed by TOF President Mark J. Spalding in our blog in 2015. COEGI is dedicated to supporting the development of marine education community leaders and empowering students of all ages to translate ocean literacy into conservation action. More information on COEGI can be found on our initiative page, here.

2. What is Ocean Literacy (and how does it relate to sustainability)?

Marrero and Payne. (June 2021) Ocean Literacy: From a Ripple to a Wave iIn book: Ocean Literacy: Understanding the Ocean (pp.21-39) DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-70155-0_2

There is a strong need for ocean literacy on an international scale because the ocean transcends country boundaries. Further, this study provides a brief history of ocean literacy and the Ocean Literacy Framework, beginning in the United States and expanding around the world.

Nathan J. Bennett, Lydia Teh, Yoshitaka Ota, Patrick Christie, Adam Ayers, Jon C. Day, Phil Franks, David Gill, Rebecca L. Gruby, John N. Kittinger, J. Zachary Koehn, Nai‘a. Lewis, John Parks, Marjo Vierros, Tara S. Whitty, Aulani Wilhelm, Kim Wright, Jaime A. Aburto, Elena M. Finkbeiner, Carlos F. Gaymer, Hugh Govan, Noella Gray, Rebecca M. Jarvis, Maery Kaplan-Hallam, Terre Satterfield, (2017). An appeal for a code of conduct for marine conservation, Marine Policy, Volume 81, Pages 411-418, ISSN 0308-597X,

Marine conservation actions, while well-intentioned, are not held to any one governance process or regulatory body, which can lead to significant variance in the degree of effectiveness. The authors argue that a code of conduct or set of standards should be instituted to ensure correct governance processes are followed. The code should promote fair conservation governance and decision-making, socially just conservation actions and outcomes, and accountable conservation practitioners and organizations. The goal of this code would allow marine conservation to be both socially acceptable and ecologically effective, thereby contributing to a truly sustainable ocean.

Uyarra, M. C., and Borja, Á. (2016). Ocean literacy: a ‘new’ socio-ecological concept for a sustainable use of the seas. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 104, 1–2. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.02.060

Comparison of public perception surveys of marine threats and protection worldwide. Majority of respondents believe the marine environment is under threat. Pollution ranked highest followed by fishing, habitat alteration, and climate change. Most respondents support marine protected areas in their region or country. Most respondents want to see larger ocean areas protected than currently are.

Gelcich, S., Buckley, P., Pinnegar, J. K., Chilvers, J., Lorenzoni, I., Terry, G., et al. (2014). Public awareness, concerns, and priorities about anthropogenic impacts on marine environments. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 111, 15042–15047. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1417344111

The level of concern regarding marine impacts is closely associated with the level of informedness. Pollution and overfishing are two areas prioritized by the public for policy development. The level of trust varies greatly among different information sources and is highest for academics and scholarly publications but lower for government or industry scientists. Results suggest that the public perceives the immediacy of marine anthropogenic impacts and is highly concerned about ocean pollution, overfishing, and ocean acidification. Eliciting public awareness, concerns, and priorities can enable scientists and funders to understand how the public relates to marine environments, frame impacts, and align managerial and policy priorities with public demand.

The Ocean Project (2011). America and the Ocean: Annual Update 2011. The Ocean Project. PDF.

Personal connection to issues is vital in achieving community and long-term engagement with conservation. Social norms typically dictate what people favor when deciding on solutions to conservation problems. The majority of people who visit the ocean, zoos, and aquariums are already in favor of ocean conservation. For conservation projects to be effective long term specific, local, and personal actions should be emphasized and encouraged. This survey is an update to America, the Ocean, and Climate Change: New Research Insights for Conservation, Awareness, and Action (2009) and Communicating About Oceans: Results of a National Survey (1999).

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. (2006, December). Conference on Ocean Literacy Report. June 7-8, 2006, Washington, D.C.

This report is the result of a 2006 meeting of the National Conference on Ocean Literacy held in Washington, D.C. The focus of the conference was to highlight the efforts of the marine education community to bring ocean learning into classrooms around the United States. The forum found that to achieve a nation of ocean-literate citizens, systemic change in our formal and informal education systems is necessary.

3. Behavior Change

3.1 An Introduction to Conservation Behavior Change

Gravert, C. and Nobel, N. (2019). Applied Behavioral Science: An Introductory Guide. Impactually.

This introduction to behavioral science provides general background on the field, information on the human brain, how information is processed, and common cognitive biases. The authors present a model of human decision-making to create behavior change. The guide provides information for readers to analyze why people do not do the right thing for the environment and how biases hinder behavior change. Projects should also have simple straightforward projects with goals and commitment devices – all important factors that those in the conservation world need to consider when trying to get people engaged with environmental issues.

Schultz, P. W., and F. G. Kaiser. (2012). Promoting pro environmental behavior. In press in S. Clayton, editor. Handbook of environmental and conservation psychology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom.

Conservation psychology is a growing field that focuses on the effects of human perceptions, attitudes, and behavior on environmental well-being. This handbook provides an excellent definition and description of conservation psychology as well as a framework for applying theories of conservation psychology to various academic analyses and active field projects.

Schultz, W. (2011). Conservation Means Behavior Change. Conservation Biology, Volume 25, No. 6, 1080–1083. Society for Conservation Biology DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2011.01766.x

Over the last several years studies have shown that there is generally a high level of concern about environmental issues, however, there have not been dramatic changes in personal actions or widespread behavior patterns. Thus, Schultz argues that conservation is a goal that can only be achieved by changing behavior. The author concludes his paper by stating that “conservation efforts led by natural scientists would be well served to involve social and behavioral scientists” that go beyond simple education and awareness campaigns.

Dietz, T., G. Gardner, J. Gilligan, P. Stern, and M. Vandenbergh. (2009). Household actions can provide a behavioral wedge to rapidly reduce U.S. carbon emissions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106:18452–18456. Available from documents/behavioral_wedge_paper.pdf

Clayton, S., and G. Myers (2009). Conservation psychology: understanding and promoting human care for nature. Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, New Jersey.

Clayton and Myers view humans as part of natural ecosystems and explore the way psychology influences a person’s experience in nature, managed, and urban settings. The goal of the book is to understand how people think about, experience, and interact with nature which is crucial for promoting environmental sustainability as well as human well-being.

Stern, P. C. (2000). Toward a coherent theory of environmentally significant behavior. Journal of Social Issues 56:407–424.

Uzzell, D. L. 2000. The psycho-spatial dimension of global environmental problems. Journal of Environmental Psychology 20:307–318.

Studies were undertaken in Australia, England, Ireland, and Slovakia. The results of each study consistently demonstrate that respondents are not only able to conceptualize problems at a global level, but an inverse distance effect is found such that environmental problems are perceived to be more serious the farther away they are from the perceiver. An inverse relationship was also found between a sense of responsibility for environmental problems and spatial scale resulting in feelings of powerlessness at a global level. The paper concludes with a discussion of various psychological theories and perspectives which informs the author’s analysis of global environmental problems.

3.2 Application of Behavior Change in Conservation Projects

Valauri-Orton, A. (2018). Changing Boarter Behavior to Protect Seagrass: A Toolkit for Designing and Implementing a Behavior Change Campaign for Seagrass Damage Prevention. The Ocean Foundation. PDF.

Despite efforts to reduce seagrass damage, scarring of seagrass due to boater activity remains an active threat. The report is intended to provide best practices for behavior change outreach campaigns by providing a step-by-step project implementation plan that emphasizes the need for providing a local context, using clear, simple, and actionable messaging, and utilizing theories of behavior change. The report draws from previous work specific to boater outreach as well as the broader conservation and behavior change outreach movement. The toolkit includes an example design process and provides specific design and survey elements that can be reused and repurposed by resource managers to suit their own needs. This resource was created in 2016 and was updated in 2018.

Costanzo, M., D. Archer, E. Aronson, and T. Pettigrew. 1986. Energy conservation behavior: the difficult path from information to action. American Psychologist 41:521–528.

After seeing a trend of only some people adopting energy conservation measures, the authors created a model to explore psychological factors that refer to how an individual’s decisions process information. They found that the credibility of the source of information, understanding of the message, and the vividness of the argument to conserve energy was the most likely to see active changes where an individual will take significant action to install or use conservation devices. While this is energy focused-rather than ocean or even nature, it was one of the first studies on conservation behavior that reflects the way the field has progressed today.

3.3 Nature-Based Empathy

Blythe, J., Baird, J., Bennett, N., Dale, G., Nash, K., Pickering, G., Wabnitz, C. (2021, March 3). Fostering Ocean Empathy Through Future Scenarios. People and Nature. 2021;3:1284–1296. DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10253.

Empathy for nature is considered a prerequisite for sustainable interactions with the biosphere. After providing a summary of the theory of ocean empathy and likely results of actions or inaction in regards to the future of the ocean, called scenarios, the authors determined that the pessimistic scenario resulted in greater empathy levels compared to the optimistic scenario. Further, the authors determined that post-test empathy levels were significantly higher than pre-test levels, indicating that future scenarios fostered ocean empathy. This study is notable in that it highlights a decrease in empathy levels (returning to pre-test levels) only three months after ocean empathy lessons were given. Thus, many studies that look at empathy do not track over time and to be effective in the long-term more than simple informative lessons are needed.

Sunassee, A.; Bokhoree, C.; Patrizio, A. Students’ Empathy for the Environment through Eco-Art Place-Based Education: A Review. Ecologies 2021, 2, 214–247.

There has been a change in the way people and scientists approach ocean literacy and behavior change in regard to ocean environmental theories over the last decade. This study looked at how students relate to nature, what affects a student’s beliefs and how behaviors are influenced, and how students’ actions are affected can provide an increased understanding of how they can contribute meaningfully to global objectives. The goal of this study was to analyze educational research papers published in the area of environmental art education to find the factor with the greatest effect and illuminate how they can help to improve the measures implemented. The findings show that such research can help to improve environmental art education based on action and take future research challenges into account.

Gifford, R, et al. 2008. Temporal pessimism and spatial optimism in environmental assessments: an 18-nation study. Journal of Environmental Psychology 29:1–12.

Kelly R, Evans K, Alexander K, Bettiol S, Corney S, Cullen-Knox C, Cvitanovic C, de Salas K, Emad GR, Fullbrook L, Garcia C, Ison S, Ling S, Macleod C, Meyer A, Murray L, Murunga M, Nash KL, Norris K, Oellermann M, Scott J, Stark JS, Wood G, Pecl GT. (2022, February). Connecting to the oceans: supporting ocean literacy and public engagement. Rev Fish Biol Fish. 2022;32(1):123-143. doi: 10.1007/s11160-020-09625-9. Epub 2021 Feb 10.

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), urbanization and socio-economic disparity threaten opportunities for people to engage and connect directly with ocean environments. The authors 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. They 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, the authors develop an ocean literacy toolkit, a practical resource for enhancing ocean connections across a broad range of contexts worldwide.

Maï Yasué, Alessia Kockel, Philip Dearden, The psychological impacts of community-based protected areas, Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 10.1002/aqc.3801, 32, 6, (1057-1072), (2022).

This study looked at the long term effects of the behavior of those in proximity to MPAs. The study found that respondents reported increased appreciation for the benefits of MPAs and more positive attitudes about MPAs over time. In comparison to respondents from communities with new MPAs, respondents in communities with medium-aged and old MPAs identified a wider range of MPA impacts on themselves (e.g. new friendships, learning, and greater pro-environmental values), their community (e.g. increased fish catch, social capital), and on ecosystems (e.g. different species and ecosystems-types). Similarly, respondents from medium-aged and old MPAs had fewer non-autonomous motivations (i.e. motivations arising externally, such as social status or pay) to engage in MPA management and also had higher self-transcendence values, such as caring for nature. These results suggest that community-based MPAs may encourage psychological shifts in communities such as greater autonomous motivation to care for nature and enhanced self-transcendence values, both of which may support conservation.

Fox N, Marshall J, Dankel DJ. (2021, May). Ocean Literacy and Surfing: Understanding How Interactions in Coastal Ecosystems Inform Blue Space User’s Awareness of the Ocean. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 18(11):5819. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18115819.

Intergovernmental policy is targeting public ocean literacy to help achieve the societal changes needed to reach a sustainable ocean agenda within a 10-year timeframe. This research of 249 participants gathered both qualitative and quantitative data focused on recreational ocean users, specifically surfers, and how their blue space activities may inform understanding of ocean processes and human-ocean interconnections. The Ocean Literacy Principles were used to assess ocean awareness through surfing interactions to develop further understanding of surfer experiences, using the social-ecological systems framework to model surfing outcomes. The results found that surfers indeed receive ocean literacy benefits, specifically three out of the seven Ocean Literacy Principles and that ocean literacy is a direct benefit many surfers in the sample group receive.

Lisa Lehnen, Ugo Arbieu, Katrin Böhning-Gaese, Sandra Díaz, Jenny A. Glikman, Thomas Mueller, Rethinking individual relationships with entities of nature, People and Nature, 10.1002/pan3.10296, 4, 3, (596-611), (2022)

Recognizing variation in human–nature relationships across different contexts, entities of nature, and individual people is central to equitable management of nature and its contributions to people and to designing effective strategies for encouraging and guiding more sustainable human behavior.

Astrid Sánchez-Jiménez, Douglas MacMillan, Matthias Wolff, Achim Schlüter, Marie Fujitani, The Importance of Values in Predicting and Encouraging Environmental Behavior: Reflections From a Costa Rican Small-Scale Fishery, Frontiers in Marine Science, 10.3389/fmars.2021.543075, 8, (2021).

Encouraging people’s pro-environmental behaviors is an objective of Education for Sustainable Development. In the context of small-scale fisheries, unsustainable fishing practices are compromising the integrity of coastal communities and ecosystems. The study looked at a behavior change intervention with gillnet fishers in the Gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica, to compare antecedents of pro-environmental behavior between participants who received an ecosystem-based intervention. Personal norms and values were significant at explaining management measures’ support, along with some fishing characteristics (e.g., fishing site). The research indicates the importance of education interventions that teach about the impacts of fishing in the ecosystem while helping participants to perceive themselves as capable of implementing actions.

Michael J. Manfredo, Tara L. Teel, Richard E. W. Berl, Jeremy T. Bruskotter, Shinobu Kitayama, Social value shift in favor of biodiversity conservation in the United States, Nature Sustainability, 10.1038/s41893-020-00655-6, 4, 4, (323-330), (2020).

This study found that increased endorsement of mutualism values (seeing wildlife as part of one’s social community and deserving of rights like humans) was accompanied by a decline in values emphasizing domination (treating wildlife as resources to be used for human benefit), a trend further visible in a cross-generational cohort analysis. The study also found strong associations between state-level values and trends in urbanization, connecting the shift to macro-level socioeconomic factors. Results suggest positive outcomes for conservation but the field’s ability to adapt will be critical to realizing those outcomes.

A De Young, R. (2013). “Environmental Psychology Overview.” In Ann H. Huffman & Stephanie Klein [Eds.] Green Organizations: Driving Change with IO Psychology. (Pp. 17-33). NY: Routledge. De Young, R. (2013). “Environmental Psychology Overview.” In Ann H. Huffman & Stephanie Klein [Eds.] Green Organizations: Driving Change with IO Psychology. (Pp. 17-33). NY: Routledge.

Environmental psychology is a field of study that examines the interrelationship between environments and human affect, cognition, and behavior. This book chapter takes an in-depth look into environmental psychology covering human-environment interactions and its implications in encouraging reasonable behavior under trying environmental and social circumstances. While not directly focused on marine issues this helps set the stage for more detailed studies into environmental psychology.

McKinley, E., Fletcher, S. (2010). Individual responsibility for the oceans? An evaluation of marine citizenship by UK marine practitioners. Ocean & Coastal Management, 53 (7),379-384. publications/individual-responsibility-for-the-oceans-an-evaluation-of-marine-

In recent years, the governance of the marine environment has evolved from being primarily top-down and state-directed to being more participatory and community-based. This paper proposes that an extension of this trend would be the inculcation of a societal sense of marine citizenship to deliver the sustainable management and protection of the marine environment through enhanced individual involvement in policy development and implementation. Among marine practitioners, the higher levels of citizen involvement in the management of the marine environment would greatly benefit the marine environment, with additional benefits possible through an increased sense of marine citizenship.

Berman M. G. Jonides J., & Kaplan S. (2008). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological Science, 19, 1207–1212. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02225.x

Unlike natural environments, urban environments are filled with stimulation that captures attention dramatically and additionally requires directed attention (e.g., to avoid being hit by a car), making them less restorative. Nature, which is filled with intriguing stimuli, modestly grabs attention in a bottom-up fashion, allowing top-down directed-attention abilities a chance to replenish.

Kaplan S . (2000). Human behavior and environmentally responsible behavior. Journal of Social Issues, 56, 491–508. doi:10.1111/0022-4537.00180

This article constitutes a search for a people-oriented approach to encouraging environmentally responsible behavior. It attempts to provide a source of motivation, reduce the corrosive sense of helplessness, and generate solutions to environmental problems that do not undermine the quality of life of the people who are affected. The altruism-centered approach currently popular in the academic literature, by contrast, is seen as contributing to helplessness and focusing on sacrifice rather than quality-of-life-enhancing solutions.

Zelezny, L.C. & Schultz, P.W. (eds.). 2000. Promoting environmentalism. Journal of Social Issues 56, 3, 365–578.

This issue of the Journal of Social Issues focuses on the psychology, sociology, and public policy of global environmental issues. The goals of the issue are (1) to describe the current state of the environment and environmentalism, (2) to present new theories and research on environmental attitudes and behaviors, and (3) to explore obstacles and ethical considerations in promoting pro-environmental action.

Kahn, P.K., Jr. (1999). The human relationship with nature. Development and culture. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Kahn explores the issue of children’s developing understanding of the environment and themselves as a part of it. While the text itself is dated in regards to modern ideals regarding environmental psychology, this text helps set up the discussion of the last 20 years.

4. Communication Strategies and Engagement

Knowlton, N. (2021). Ocean optimism: Moving beyond the obituaries in marine conservation. Annual Review of Marine Science, 13, 479– 499.

While the ocean has suffered many losses, there is increasing evidence that important progress is being made in marine conservation. Many of these achievements have multiple benefits, including improved human well-being. Moreover, a better understanding of how to implement conservation strategies effectively, new technologies and databases, increased integration of the natural and social sciences, and use of indigenous knowledge promise continued progress. There is no single solution; successful efforts typically are neither quick nor cheap and require trust and collaboration. Nevertheless, a greater focus on solutions and successes will help them to become the norm rather than the exception.

Fielding, S., Copley, J.T. and Mills, R.A. (2019). Exploring Our Oceans: Using the Global Classroom to Develop Ocean Literacy. Front. Mar. Sci. 6:340. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00340

Developing the ocean literacy of individuals of all ages from all countries, cultures, and economic backgrounds is essential to inform choices for sustainable living in the future, but how we reach and represent diverse voices is a challenge. To address this problem the authors created Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to offer a possible tool to achieve this goal, as they can potentially reach large numbers of people including those from lower and middle-income regions.

Lotze, H. K., Guest, H., O’Leary, J., Tuda, A., and Wallace, D. (2018). Public perceptions of marine threats and protection from around the world. Ocean Coast. Manage. 152, 14–22. doi: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2017.11.004

This study compares available surveys of public perceptions of marine threats and protection involving > 32,000 respondents across 21 countries. Results indicate that 70% of respondents believe the marine environment is under threat from human activities, and 45% believe the threat is high or very high. Yet when asked about the ocean’s health, only 15% thought it was poor or threatened. Respondents consistently ranked pollution issues as the highest threat, followed by fishing, habitat alteration, and climate change. Concerning ocean protection, 73% of respondents support marine protected areas in their region. Most respondents overestimated the area of the ocean currently protected and would like to see much larger areas protected in the future. Overall, a clear picture emerged of the perceived threats and support for protection which can inform marine managers, policymakers, conservation practitioners, and educators to improve marine management and conservation programs.

Karl Pillemer, PhD, Nancy M. Wells, PhD, Rhoda H. Meador, PhD, Leslie Schultz, Charles R. Henderson, Jr., MS, Marie Tillema Cope, MPH, MSW, Engaging Older Adults in Environmental Volunteerism: The Retirees in Service to the Environment Program, The Gerontologist, Volume 57, Issue 2, 1 April 2017, Pages 367–375,

Retirees in Service to the Environment (RISE) is a program designed to promote participation of older people in volunteering for the environment. Based on principles of adult learning and best practices for the development of effective volunteer programs. This study looked at individuals who were new to environmental volunteering and shows how adults in addition to children can and should be engaged when developing environmental programs as a way to encourage more community involvement.

Formosa M . (2012). Older persons and green volunteering: The missing link to a sustainable future? In S.Rizzo (Ed.), Green jobs from a small state perspective. Case studies from Malta. Brussels, Belgium: Green European Foundation.

In Malta, many persons aged 60 and above volunteer many hours each month in local environmental organizations with their goal to preserve the earth for future generations even though they will not personally see the benefits. Through the data emanating from a qualitative survey, this paper highlights the possible positive returns accruing from green volunteering in later life which are of a physical, cognitive, and social nature. It thus argues that there is a potential for a greater number of older people to volunteer in green non-governmental organizations.

5. K-12 Education

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). (2020). Ocean Literacy: The Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts of Ocean Sciences for Learners of All Ages. Washington, DC.

Understanding the Ocean is essential to comprehending and protecting this planet on which we live. The purpose of the Ocean Literacy Campaign was to address the lack of ocean-related content in state and national science education standards, instructional materials, and assessments.

Halversen, C., Schoedinger, S., & Payne, D. (2021). A Handbook for Increasing Ocean Literacy: Tools for Educators and Ocean Literacy Advocates. National Marine Educators Association, College Park, MD.

A Handbook for Increasing Ocean Literacy is a resource for educators to teach, learn, and communicate about the ocean. While originally intended for classroom teachers and informal educators for educational materials, programs, exhibits, and activity development in the United States, these resources can be used by anyone, anywhere, who seeks to increase ocean literacy.

Tsai, Liang-Ting (2019, October). Multilevel Effects of Student and School Factors on Senior High School Students’ Ocean Literacy. Sustainability Vol. 11 DOI: 10.3390/su11205810.

The main finding of this study is that for senior high school students in Taiwan, individual factors are the primary drivers of ocean literacy. In other words, student-level factors accounted for a larger share of the total variance in the ocean literacy of students than did school-level factors. However, the frequency of reading ocean-themed books or magazines were predictors of ocean literacy, whereas at the school level, school region and school location were the crucial influencing factors for ocean literacy.

National Marine Educators Association. Ocean Literacy Scope and Sequence for Grades K-12; The Ocean Literacy Campaign Featuring the Ocean Literacy Scope & Sequence for Grades K-12, NMEA: MS, USA, 2010.

The Ocean Literacy Scope and Sequence for Grades K–12 is an instructional tool that provides guidance to educators to help their students achieve a full understanding about the ocean in ever more complex ways across years of thoughtful, coherent science instruction.

Steel, B.S.; Smith, C.; Opsommer, L.; Curiel, S.; Warner-Steel, R. Public Ocean Literacy in the United States. Ocean Coast. Manag. 2005, 48, 97–114.

This study investigates current levels of public knowledge and informedness concerning oceans, and also explores the correlates of knowledge holding. While coastal residents say they are slightly more knowledgeable than those residing in non-coastal areas, both coastal and non-coastal respondents have trouble identifying important terms and answering ocean quiz questions. These results do not speak highly of the informedness of the public on ocean issues. The low level of knowledge about ocean issues implies the public needs access to better information delivered in the most effective manner. In terms of how to deliver information, we found that television and radio have a negative influence on knowledge holding, which has been found in other studies concerning political and public policy knowledge. Newspapers and the internet have a positive overall influence on knowledge holding.

6. Ocean Education and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice

Worm, Elliff, Fonseca, Gell, Serra Gonçalves, Helder, Murray, Peckham, Prelovec, Sink. (2023, March). Making Ocean Literacy Inclusive and Accessible. Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics DOI: 10.3354/esep00196

The paper argues that engagement in marine science has historically been the privilege of a small number of people with access to higher education, specialized equipment, and research funding. The paper discusses diverse cultural settings from around the world and provides 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.

Zelezny, L.C.; Chua, P.P.; Aldrich, C. Elaborating on Gender Differences in Environmentalism. J. Soc. Issues 2000, 56, 443–457.

The authors found that after reviewing research (1988–1998) on gender differences in environmental attitudes and behaviors found that, contrary to past inconsistencies, a clearer picture has emerged: Women report stronger environmental attitudes and behaviors than men.

7. Standards, Methodologies, and Indicators

Paredes-Coral, E., Deprez, T., Mokos, M., Vanreusel, A., & Roose, H. (2022). The Blue Survey: Validation of an instrument to measure ocean literacy among adults. Mediterranean Marine Science, 23(2), 321–326.

The Blue Survey and The Blue Survey 2.0 were created by Ghent University and It found that six sub-dimensions helped quantify the study of ocean literacy. These include knowledge of ocean-related topics, personal interest in ocean-related aspects, ocean stewardship, ocean as an economic resource, ocean-friendly behavior, and willingness to act responsibly for the ocean. Their analysis resulted in the development of a new validated instrument to measure the various dimensions of ocean literacy. It may help researchers and practitioners to better understand the factors contributing to shaping an ocean-literate person. Further research should assess the validity of the Blue Survey across different populations, including those closely related to the sea, such as maritime professionals.

Ashley M, Pahl S, Glegg G and Fletcher S (2019) A Change of Mind: Applying Social and Behavioral Research Methods to the Assessment of the Effectiveness of Ocean Literacy Initiatives. Front. Mar. Sci. 6:288. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00288

These methods allow for the assessment of changes in attitude which is key in understanding a program’s effectiveness. The authors present a framework within a Theory of Change logic model for the assessment of educational training courses for professionals entering the shipping industry (targeting behaviors to reduce the spread of invasive species), and educational workshops for school students (aged 11–15 and 16–18), on problems related to marine litter and microplastics. The authors found that assessing changes in attitude can help determine a project’s effectiveness at increasing participants’ knowledge and awareness of an issue, especially when specific audiences were targeted with tailored ocean literacy tools.

Santoro, F., Santin, S., Scowcroft, G., Fauville, G., and Tuddenham, P. (2017). Ocean Literacy for All – A Toolkit. IOC/UNESCO & UNESCO Venice office Paris (IOC Manuals and Guides, 80 revised in 2018), 136.

Knowing and understanding the ocean’s influence on us, and our influence on the ocean is crucial to living and acting sustainably. This is the essence of ocean literacy. The Ocean Literacy Portal serves as a one-stop shop, providing resources and content available to all, with the goal of creating an ocean-literate society able to make informed and responsible decisions on ocean resources and ocean sustainability.

NOAA. (2013). Ocean Literacy: The Essential Principles of Ocean Sciences for Learners of All Ages, Version 2 was published in March 2013.

There are seven Ocean Literacy principles and the complementary Scope and Sequence comprises 28 conceptual flow diagrams. The Ocean Literacy principles remain a work in progress; they reflect our efforts to date in defining ocean literacy.

A Blueprint for Ocean Literacy: EU4Ocean. Argues that ocean literacy is key to sustainability, but promotes its own program. 357882384_A_Blueprint_for_Ocean_Literacy_ EU4Ocean

This paper discusses the importance of the efficient communication of scientific results to citizens across the world. In order for people to absorb information, we need to understand the principles and apply the best available means to facilitate the process of increasing global awareness of the changes. This explicitly applies to the verification of how we appeal to people with respect to various environmental issues and, hence, how we can modernize the educational approaches to challenge global change. The authors also argue that ocean issues are at the core of any process aiming to secure sustainability.

Sean M. Wineland, Thomas M. Neeson, Maximizing the spread of conservation initiatives in social networks, Conservation Science and Practice, 10.1111/csp2.12740, 4, 8, (2022).

Conservation programs and policies can preserve biodiversity and boost ecosystem services, but only when widely adopted. While thousands of conservation initiatives exist globally, most fail to spread beyond a few initial adopters. Initial adoption by influential individuals results in sharp improvements in the total number of adopters of a conservation initiative network-wide. The regional network resembles a random network composed mostly of state agencies and local entities, while the national network has a scale-free structure with highly influential hubs of federal agencies and NGO entities.

8. The Ocean, Jobs, and Economy

Rebecca Jefferson, Emma McKinley, Holly Griffin, Alison Nimmo, Stephen Fletcher, Public Perceptions of the Ocean: Lessons for Marine Conservation From a Global Research Review, Frontiers in Marine Science, 10.3389/fmars.2021.711245, 8, (2021).

Insights into how public audiences perceive and relate to the ocean are pivotal to successful societal engagement and integration of human dimensions in marine conservation. Perception research explores how people understand, value, or engage with an environment, issue, or management response, and in the context of marine conservation, provides crucial insights for the development, delivery, and evaluation of effective conservation interventions. Furthermore, there has been a tendency to focus on charismatic species, or issues and spaces of clear human-ocean interaction (e.g., beaches), highlighting significant gaps in the topics and themes currently covered by ocean perceptions research. An additional gap identified is the underutilization of available methods to explore the complexity of marine perceptions. In a bid to address these gaps, the paper concludes with a series of recommendations designed to stimulate and support ocean perceptions research as being fundamental to the success of marine conservation efforts. While ocean perceptions research may be young, the growing research effort evidenced in this review gives optimism for realizing its potential and continuing to improve the integration of ocean perceptions research effectively into marine conservation.

Defining and Measuring the U.S. Ocean Economy (2020, June) Bureau of Economic Analysis, Department of Commerce.

Ocean-based industries and ocean-related production are not visible within the standard national accounts structure, however, information allows for a supply-use framework to estimate production especially related to contribution to GDP). These rough estimates show the ocean economy accounted for 1.8 percent ($371.8 billion of U.S. GDP).

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2014). Volunteers by type of main organization for which volunteer activities were performed and selected characteristics: September 2014. Economic News Release. Retrieved from

The Department of Labor and Statistics gathered data on the main type of organization for which volunteer activities were performed, showing that environmental groups are placed near the bottom. This focus on volunteer activities differs from professionals in the field but highlights the lower level of engagement compared to other types of organizations such as religious, social, or community service (which does not include marine or environmental activities), sports, cultural engagements, and the arts. In fact, environmental engagement is the second lowest, only slightly above public safety messaging.

Additional information on a country basis can be found in The International Labour Organization’s  (ILOSTAT) country dataset. has significant information on what industries are most active in the maritime environment.