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 socioeconomic 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 (https://futureseas2030.org/), 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.
Credit for infographic: Stacey McCormack