Status of Ocean Awareness in the United States


"Strengthening the Nation's awareness of the importance of the oceans requires a heightened focus on the marine environment, through formal and informal education efforts. …informal education aimed at the entire population is needed to foster lifelong learning."
 - US Commission on Ocean Policy

Washington Sea Grant OutreachOur country is surrounded by water. Knowingly or not, we are all affected by it and have an ecological impact on it. Physical benefits provided by the ocean are not always easy to recognize on a daily basis. The ocean covers 71% of our planet, yet only one in ten of Americans can answer four of five questions correctly about the ocean and its functions (Ocean Project, 1999). In order for citizens to be literate about ocean issues, they need to know and understand the role of the ocean in their lives. In recent years, academia, agencies, and organizations have taken steps to quantify the status of ocean awareness in the United States. The following are a few publications and research summaries about the state of ocean awareness in the United States.


Pew Oceans Commission. (2003). A report to the nation: Recommendations for a new ocean policy. In the first thorough review of ocean policy in 34 years, the Pew Oceans Commission released a host of recommendations in 2003 to guide the way in which the federal government will successfully manage America’s marine environment. The Pew Oceans Commission calls for a new era of ocean literacy that links people to the marine environment.


The Ocean Project leads up cutting edge market research in collaboration with zoos, aquariums, and museums to identify trends and opportunities for strengthening ocean education across the US. A national survey and follow up trends are all available on the website.

The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (USCOP) report states that a knowledgeable public is essential to generating the kinds of political and financial support needed to reverse the declines in coastal resources and promote ocean stewardship: U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. (2004). An ocean blueprint for the 21st century: Final report of the U.S. commission on ocean policy. Washington, DC.

 Photo Courtesy of the California Coastal Commission

Capital Hill Oceans Week: Conference on Ocean Literacy, (2002)

Proceedings from the first day, entitled Connecting the WOW! (Wonders of the Ocean World): Creating an Ocean Literate Society: The panels consisted of teachers, researchers, scientists, and members of the National Marine Sanctuary Program.  Their recommendations included a need for strong partnerships among educators and researchers, increased funding in educational programs, and effective ways to use the media in public outreach.


California Ocean Awareness

Californians and the Environment (Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) 2009 -


This survey is the ninth PPIC Statewide Survey on the environment since 2000. The current survey is part of an annual series conducted with funding from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and is intended to inform state, local, and federal policymakers, encourage discussion about environmental topics, and raise public awareness about environmental issues.


Public Ocean Literacy: Strategies for teaching ocean literacy through the media, exhibits, on-site informal education, outdoor experiences, and on-line learning. The results of Consortium for Oceanographic Research Education (CORE) sponsored workshop, organized and facilitated by the Aquarium of the Pacific's Marine Conservation Research Institute. (October, 2005) -