Close this search box.

Our work

What is Ocean Literacy?​

Earth has one big interconnected ocean with many features. The global ocean regulates weather and climate. It is home to countless species. It provides clean air, food, and medicines to those living on land.

Ocean literacy is widely defined as an understanding of how the ocean influences us and how we influence the ocean. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO has also described ocean literacy as the development of a “civic relationship with the ocean.”

Our interactions with the ocean can take many shapes. As the country with the longest coastline in the world, Canada has ties that run deep through history, cultures, transportation, economies, livelihoods, recreation, and more.

Over 30 million Canadians live inland. One in two live along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. For many Canadians, it is not the ocean and coastline that frame our identity; rather, it is the vast interconnected landscape of wetlands, lakes, rivers, and waterways. Canada has over 2 million lakes and more than 8,500 rivers. All of this water flows through one of five drainage basins to the ocean – 60% of this water flows north to Inuit Nunangat (Inuktut word meaning homeland, used by Inuit in Canada). 

Thus in Canada, ocean literacy is fundamentally about our relationship with the ocean and the waterways that connect us to each other and the sea.

Inuit are a marine people. Our culture and way of life is inextricably linked to the ocean. The marine environment is central to our identity, the way that we perceive the world, and the way that we think of ourselves."
Natan Obed
President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
The ocean is an extension of our home. It provides food, employment, and transportation systems that have supported our way of life for eons. We don’t own the ocean – we belong to it and, as such, are responsible for its well-being which, in turn, defines and reinforces our well-being.
Hilistis Pauline Waterfall
Adjunct Professor and Hailhzaqv elder, Vancouver Island University

Check out these Ocean Literacy tools​