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Oceans matter!

Museum supports new national plan that fosters love for the ocean

© Canadian Ocean Literacy Coalition

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Kristy Jones, April 13, 2021

Standing on the deck of a boat in the middle of the ocean, it can seem like there is nothing but an immense stretch of water between you and land. Yet beneath the waves, another world exists.

It’s home to hundreds of thousands of marine species–ranging from microscopic algae to seaweed to crustaceans to fishes to whales. Countless still-unknown organisms thrive beneath the ocean’s surface.

This may be an abstract thought, one that is perhaps hard to imagine. If you live inland, the ocean may be far from top of mind. But the ocean is still a part of your life, even if you don’t live near it.

The relevance of oceans, which are closely linked to the health of the planet, are driven home in a new strategy, Land, Water, Ocean, Us, launched March 16 by the Canadian Ocean Literacy Coalition (COLC). The Canadian Museum of Nature is one of the many partners supporting this great initiative

Consider that Canada, home of the world’s longest coastline, has over two million lakes and more than 8,500 waterways, which eventually drain into the ocean. Bounded by the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, our country also has a significant ocean-based economy that has a substantial effect on the overall Canadian economy. So, whether you live inland or in a coastal region, the ocean affects you.

The COLC strategy is driven by three main goals: ocean knowledge, ocean values, and ocean action. To achieve these, the COLC has identified nine action streams:

  1. Develop a Canadian ocean literacy map and community platform.
  2. Establish the ocean literacy community microgrant program.
  3. Strengthen ocean education.
  4. Grow Ocean Week Canada.
  5. Enhance ocean knowledge sharing through media, storytelling and the arts.
  6. Advance youth engagement in ocean conservation and the blue economy.
  7. Improve access and diversity in blue spaces and ocean sectors.
  8. Improve integration of water-ocean-climate literacy in policy.
  9. Build ocean and human health connections.

The literacy map is already on the coalition’s website. It connects you with opportunities to get involved with ocean-related programs and events.

In line with the COLC’s goal to strengthen education and ocean literacy, the museum’s Water Gallery is a great place to explore some of the most critical problems facing the ocean today. These include issues of plastic pollution, climate change and acidification.

All manner of marine biodiversity is on display̶---from fishes to odd-looking invertebrates such as tapeworms and sponges, to the skeleton of a blue whale, the largest animal that ever lived. The museum also offers “Water in our Lives”, an educational workshop for elementary schoolchildren.

The museum’s outreach is supported by the knowledge derived from millions of marine specimens curated at the museum’s research and collections facility. In addition, some of the museum’s scientists are dedicated to understanding the complexities of life in the ocean. Dr. Jean-Marc Gagnon, for example, is a marine biologist comparing invertebrate species found in the Northwest Atlantic. His studies recently led to the discovery and then identification in 2015 of a new species of clam.

There will always be new information about the ocean. We learn something new every day. So dive in and show your support for ocean literacy.