The Earth has one interconnected ocean with many features. It 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.” Fundamentally, ocean literacy is about humans’ relationships 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).
Interconnections exist between land, freshwater, coastal areas, sea ice, and open ocean. Our connections, as humans, with these interconnected elements are deeply shaped by diverse experiences. Ocean literacy is about listening to these different experiences, learning from them, and acting together to ensure healthy waterways and a global ocean health for future generations.