IOLN Members Meeting 2022 – ‘Working Together – Ocean Literacy With All’

The 2022 IOLN members meeting was held online on the 6th of December. As explained by the Secretariat in the opening of the meeting, 2022 has been a year of ‘behind the scenes’ work: in fact, IOLN is involved in the EU project ‘PREP4BLUE’ which started last June and will function as the first building block to the ‘EU Mission: Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030’. In the framework of this project several initiatives aimed at promoting the growth of the network and the collaborations among the members are in preparation for next year. The first of these will include regional in-person meetings where the network will finally have the chance to reconnect and move forward together.

In this view, the theme chosen for the 2022 members meeting was ‘Working Together – Ocean Literacy With All’. The perfect keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Francesca Santoro of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, who is the person who more than anyone has carried forward a global promotion of ocean literacy to foster a change in the humanity’s relationship with the ocean. In fact, in her presentation Francesca focused on the UN Ocean Decade programme ‘Ocean Literacy With All’ (OLWA), which she is leading, that aims at building capacity and behaviour change to achieve an ocean literate society to help ensure sustainable development of the global ocean. The concept of ocean literacy has rapidly evolved in the last number of years. The current challenges society is facing show the need for OL to go beyond formal education about the ocean and reach a diverse range of stakeholders in order to build connections among all members of society and the ocean. The OLWA has been developed to pursue the UN Ocean Decade Challenge 10 ‘Ensure that the multiple values and services of the ocean for human wellbeing, culture, and sustainable development are widely understood, and identify and overcome barriers to behaviour change required for a step change in humanity’s relationship with the ocean’. During her presentation, Francesca also pointed out how the attention on ocean literacy is growing, also thanks to the ‘Ocean Literacy Dialogues’ led by the OLWA and partners. The aim of the OL Dialogues series is to co-organize public events that enable knowledge exchange across different geographical and socio-cultural contexts, and that catalyse action as we work together to achieve the UN Ocean Decade goals. Francesca’s presentation was followed by a Q&A session during which the meeting attendees engaged the keynote speaker with a series of questions about some of the challenges involved in the OLWA programme and her vision for the future.

The 2022 IOLN members meeting also provided the opportunity to several members to showcase their work through a series of flash presentations.

The first speaker was Aoife O’Mahony of Fair Seas, who described the work carried out so far by this campaign, that is seeking to protect, conserve and restore Ireland’s unique marine environment. Aoife focused in particular on the ‘Revitalising Our Seas’ report Fair Seas published a few months ago. In this they identified areas of interest for Marine Protected Areas designation in Irish Waters, which will be hopefully implemented in the long-awaited legislation for Marine Protected Areas in Ireland expected next summer. Aoife also mentioned the inaugural Fair Seas conference which will be held on World Ocean Day, the 8th of June 2023, hopefully around the publication of the MPA legislation.

The second speaker was Chelsea Beardsley, PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast who is conducting a project on Marine Development in coastal Ireland, specifically around coastal Clare and Galway. Chelsea is looking for volunteers who would like to take part in her project: she would like to talk to local people about their lived experience of coastal industries and how they are changing. Input from those working, volunteering, or living in all aspects of coastal Ireland is invaluable to this research as Ireland plans to implement new Marine Protected Areas.

Martina Gaglioti, an Italian marine researcher and scuba diver trainer described the project ‘Fins into water’ developed with the staff of the Tavolara Diving centre in Sardinia, Italy. This collaboration among divers has involved a number of initiatives including field-based observations, citizen science projects, international cooperations and public engagement sessions. These have all led to the production of a soon-to-be-published manual aimed at divers in order to raise their awareness about ocean literacy and the UN Sustainable Goals.

Rory O’Callaghan from Seasearch Ireland gave an overview of the citizen science schemes started before the pandemic that they are planning to re-start in person next year. In particular the ‘Adopt a Site Scheme’, the ‘Sponge Recording Scheme’, the ‘Seagrass Recording Scheme’, and the ‘Irish Skate Lay Site’ project in collaboration with the Ray Project. Seasearch is looking for volunteers to join all these schemes, and Rory noted the range of training opportunities for divers and snorkellers offered by Seasearch Ireland if they would like to get involved.

The last presentation was given by Rory Jackson who reported on the successful ‘Oceans Plastic Project’, launched in 2017. This project is run on a completely voluntary basis with the aim of researching the plastic waste along the Atlantic and Irish seacoasts of Ireland. Working together with mainly Transition /4th year Secondary School Students in West Cork, the surveying work involves collecting all kinds of data from microplastics to larger plastic pieces and using the plastics collected for art and design projects.

The presentations shared by the IOLN members during the meeting, along with a number from members who were unfortunately not able to present on the day due to time constraints, are available on a padlet here.

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