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2020-05-11

Ocean Citizen Awareness and Literacy Workshop gathers experts from the Atlantic region to discuss gaps and needs

One of the objectives of the All-Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance is the construction of the All-Atlantic Ocean Research Community. Through the promotion of new models of cooperation around the whole Atlantic Ocean basin, this massive coordinated and partnership-based endeavour will encourage joint activities, increment operational efficiency within marine research, expand our common understanding and scientific knowledge on the Atlantic, and leverage capacity development through scientific exchange. In order to achieve this objective, five stakeholders’ platforms were created under the AANChOR project to foster the interaction of experts of various key scientific areas. On 5 February 2020, on the eve of the second All-Atlantic Ocean Research Forum (Brussels, Belgium), the AANChOR project gathered dozens of experts in five different workshops to better understand what should be the next steps in each of their fields of transatlantic cooperation.

The important role of the ocean for society, and the need to use its resources and services sustainably, is at the core of the Belém Statement. Building an All-Atlantic Ocean Research Community requires citizens to have a basic, practical, understanding of the role of the ocean in their lives and the impacts caused by their activities on the marine environment. The Atlantic, from pole to pole, encompasses a wide variety of ecosystems, currents transporting heat, nutrients and, unfortunately, pollution. Populations with different cultures and ways of living share the Atlantic basin and will have to cooperate for a sustainable use of its resources and services. Citizen ocean awareness and ocean literacy are, therefore, foundational to achieve the Belém goals.

Many different projects and programmes in Ocean Citizen Awareness and Literacy are already carried out in the Belém Statement countries, adapted to different cultural contexts and audiences. To identify initiatives that can be scaled up and best practices to be shared across the Atlantic, fifteen experts from seven countries and four continents gathered in an AANChOR workshop organised by the project partner Ciência Viva from Portugal on 5 February 2020 in the inspiring setting of the Natural History Museum of Brussels.

The experts further identified gaps and needs regarding ocean citizen awareness and literacy initiatives, in terms of the target audience, the Belém Statement areas of interest and the type of actions. Among the conclusions were the need to engage different publics such as indigenous communities; artists and journalists; small scale fisheries, subsistence fisheries and poachers; business and industry. A lack of resources in the native languages of the Atlantic basin countries was identified, as well as the lack of fun and recreational activities, allowing people to connect emotionally with the ocean. Regarding the Belém areas of interest, there are neither initiatives about the polar regions, nor about aquaculture, despite both being important topics for cooperation.

The need to make ocean literacy a theme per se, and not just a knowledge sharing mechanism, was also highlighted during the workshop. Missing typologies of action refer to e-learning platforms, that could use using existing distance learning infrastructures, the use of vessels of opportunity to provide ship-board and boat experiences beyond oceanographic campaigns, and, in general, missing ocean literacy activities touching other dimensions besides education.

Additionally, societal issues cannot be neglected. The need to empower communities disproportionately affected by the degradation of the ocean through bottom-up literacy programmes or to connect people with different socio-economic backgrounds were some of the needs discussed during the Brussels workshop.

In the forthcoming months, the participant experts will make use of their experience to co-create joint actions that will correspond to these needs and contribute to filling the identified gaps in ocean citizen awareness and literacy. These joint actions should create transatlantic networks and promote an exchange of best practices towards an All-Atlantic Ocean Research Community.

Questions and comments regarding AANChOR’s Ocean Citizen Awareness and Literacy platform should be directed to vbatista@cienciaviva.pt.

 The All-Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance is an international initiative supporting research and innovation promoting the sustainable use of the oceans. It is the result of various science diplomacy efforts involving Atlantic countries on both sides of the Equator line. It aims at enhancing marine research and innovation cooperation along and across the Atlantic Ocean, from the Arctic to Antarctica. To learn more about the Alliance and its relationship with the Galway and Belém Statements and the Administrative Arrangements with Argentina and Cape Verde, please have a look at this video or read this brochure.