27 July 2020 - The health of our ocean relies on the next generation to be ocean leaders, striving for change and inspired to work together to sustainably protect our marine resource. Many organisations across Ireland have been raising awareness about the importance of our ocean and our influence on the ocean to our young people. Now, through the Irish Ocean Literacy Network (IOLN), these organisations are working together to increase our understanding of our ocean wealth, not just in Ireland but further afield.
Our ocean is vital to life itself, providing us with more than half of the oxygen we breathe. The ocean is the world's largest ecosystem and home to nearly a million known species. As well as providing us with food, the ocean is a gateway for shipping and has an influence on our weather and climate.
Dr Noirin Burke of Galway Atlantaquaria and Co-Secretariat for the IOLN said, "While our ocean covers two-thirds of the Earth's surface, the vast majority of people know very little about our ocean and its influence on our lives. Since the Irish Ocean Literacy Network formed in 2016, we have facilitated collaborations, supported initiatives, grown our network and engaged with others to increase ocean literacy in Ireland. To ensure a healthy ocean for us now and for future generations, we all need to be better informed about how the ocean affects us and how what we do affects the oceans."
The IOLN, which involves 40 organisations and 100 individuals from industry, education, government organisations and charities, are working together to achieve an 'Ocean Literate Society' across Ireland. An ocean literate person is someone who understands their influence on the ocean and its influence on their daily life, and can make positive choices for a sustainable ocean for the future.
In Ireland more than 12,000 primary school students each year learn about our ocean through the Marine Institute's Explorers Education Programme. Primary school students and teachers take part in marine projects, seashore safaris and have aquariums in the classroom to learn more about our ocean. The Explorers Education Programme also offers lesson plans for teachers, teacher training activities and engage families at festivals and events year-round.
Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute said, "It is really important to cultivate an interest in the ocean from a young age, so that they understand how important the ocean is to our society. The Marine Institute, along with the IOLN and the Explorers Programme, aim to inspire the next generation of ocean champions, encouraging them to pursue marine and maritime careers and to become the ocean leaders and marine champions of the future."
The Marine Institute also hosted the first All Atlantic Summer School in 2019, which involved 23 Youth Ambassadors from 15 countries. The Youth Ambassadors engaged with political, social, economic and scientific leaders to develop their skills to become actors for change for the Atlantic Ocean. Following the Summer School, the ambassadors pitched their achievements and campaigns at the All Atlantic Ocean Research Forum in Brussels earlier this year.
One of Ireland's All Atlantic Ocean Youth Ambassadors Eimear Manning said, "Being part of the All Atlantic Summer School was a unique opportunity to engage with experts and leaders in ocean science, and other young ocean activists. It is so important for young people to have a voice for ocean sustainability, and be empowered to create change and share their concerns and priorities and offer suggestions and solutions."
As well as raising awareness about the importance of the ocean across Ireland, the IOLN is now collaborating further afield, and connecting with platforms across Europe. As a member of the EuroGOOS (European Global Ocean Observing Systems) Ocean Literacy Network, the IOLN is cooperating with experts from 20 organisations across eight countries. The EuroGOOS Ocean Literacy Network aims to broaden ocean literacy efforts globally.
The IOLN also participated in the first Ocean Literacy Summit on World Oceans Day in June 2020 where the successes of the Ocean Literacy community worldwide were celebrated and shared, enabling collaborations to transform scientific knowledge into action at a local level.
"We are delighted to connect with other organisations across Europe - as a collective we can reach broader audiences and generate a larger impact. We can join our efforts in achieving ocean literacy, share knowledge and best practice, and collaborate on projects and initiatives," Dr Noirin Burke said. "After all, our ocean connects us all."
For more information on the IOLN or how to become a member, visit the IOLN website at https://irishoceanliteracy.ie/