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Maritime Forum
Ocean Literacy and Blue Skills
Ocean literacy

The ocean is a source of life for human beings. It gives us food, oxygen and energy. It is home to many species and acts as climate regulator. Understanding how we influence the ocean and how the ocean influences us is at the core of ocean literacy. This understanding allows us to make responsible choices to protect our ocean better and to use the opportunities it offers in a sustainable manner. Thereby, it is also contributing to the improvement of the well-being of people, as envisioned in the European Green Deal.

What is Ocean Literacy?

Ocean literacy is characterised by a comprehension of how the ocean impacts individuals and how individuals affect the ocean. On an individual level, this implies that an ocean-literate person possesses the following qualities:

  1. Recognizes the significance of the ocean for humanity.
  2. Can effectively communicate about the ocean in a meaningful manner.
  3. Makes informed and responsible decisions regarding the ocean and its resources.

Why do we need Ocean Literacy?

The ocean provides essential ecosystem services that benefit humanity, including the provision of raw materials and food, coastal protection, water purification, carbon sequestration, and opportunities for tourism and recreation[1]. However, various human activities such as fishing, maritime transportation, energy production, tourism, and waste disposal have adverse impacts on the marine environment.

In response to the environmental challenges and human activities affecting European seas, the EU has established an extensive policy framework to manage and address these issues and has adopted more than 200 pieces of legislation that affect marine environmental policy and management.

Looking ahead, the vision for the future management of European seas is outlined in the Integrated Maritime Policy, which calls for integrated maritime governance to promote stakeholder engagement, coherent agendas, the elimination of sectoral thinking, and the establishment of cross-sectoral management structures[2].

[1] Barbier, E. B., Hacker, S. D., Kennedy, C., Koch, E. W., Stier, A. C., & Silliman, B. R. (2011). The value of estuarine and coastal ecosystem services. Ecological Monographs, 81(2), 169–193. doi:10.1890/10-1510.1

[2] EC (2009). The Integrated Maritime Policy for the EU –priorities for the next Commission. Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Progress report on the EU’s integrated maritime policy {SEC(2009) 1343}

The EU4Ocean Coalition

The European Ocean Coalition (EU4Ocean) connects diverse organisations, projects and people that contribute to ocean literacy and the sustainable management of the ocean. Supported by the European Commission, this bottom-up inclusive initiative aims at uniting the voices of Europeans to make the ocean a concern of everyone!

It combines EU-wide activities with actions dedicated to the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean (including the North Sea), the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the global ocean.

Read more about the EU4Ocean Coalition

Other initiatives

DG MARE also contribute to ocean literacy with other initiatives such as:

  • The European Atlas of the Seas which is an easy and fun way for professionals, students and anyone interested to learn more about Europe's seas and coasts, their environment, related human activities and European policies. It aims to raise long-term awareness of Europe's oceans and seas, in the context of the EU's integrated maritime policy.
  • A European event to engage youth in developing ideas for the sustainable use of the marine environment and resources while minimizing the negative impacts of human activities, was the Hack4Oceans. This 2-day Youth Innovation Event took place on 21 and 22 April 2021.  It gave young participants across Europe the possibility to learn, explore and co-create opportunities for prosperity through ocean conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. The event brought together undergraduate students and professional stakeholders coming from the private sector, policy-making and academia.
  • A second edition, called Hack4Oceans II, was organised in on 23 and 24 November 2022 in the framework of the European Year of Youth.