In celebration of World Oceans Day (June 8), the Arctic Youth Networks’ Oceans Group (AYO) aims to contribute by highlighting the ocean’s vital role as the foundation of our life support system, covering almost 70 percent of the globe hosting a wealth of biodiversity. However, this life support system is threatened by anthropogenic impacts and is exposed to the so-called triple planetary crisis. As such, the ocean is exposed to three interlinked issues: climate change, biodiversity loss, and marine pollution. 

These issues are seen across the global ocean. Still, they are amplified in some regions, such as the polar oceans, which have continued to warm in recent years and are declared to be in a transition phase characterized by the loss of sea ice and changing ecosystems (IPCC, 2019).

The Arctic Region is considered to warm four times faster than the global average, thus contributing to the sea-ice loss and the reduction of physical habitat for organisms and biodiversity in the area (Rantanen et al., 2022; Lannuzel et al., 2020). 

In the Canadian Western Arctic, the Inuvialuit community of Tuktuuyaqtuuq (Tuktoyaktuk), for example, experiences socioeconomic damages from increased erosion of coastal areas, resulting from increased loss of sea ice and warming rates.  As such, the projected changes directly affect Arctic Indigenous Peoples and coastal communities, who are often still largely depending on subsistence activities, which are inextricably linked to the ocean and where the sea ice often still represents a platform for hunting, fishing, and transportation, also contributing to increased food insecurity.

As the changes in and beyond the ocean have direct and indirect effects on people, communities, and youth throughout the world, and especially the Arctic coastal communities, it is important to increase meaningful communication and information about the role of the ocean to create awareness about the issues and existing challenges.

Miley Wolki and Kiara Cockney of Tuktoyaktuk, who are also part of the N’we Jinan production of ‘Don’t Give Up’, present a message to the world during a Trek2Tuk4Kids Fundraiser on July 3 2023. credit Karli Zschogner

Ocean literacy, describing the strengthening of the understanding of the ocean’s influence on us and our influence on the ocean, has gained some international attention in recent years. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) committed to the worldwide promotion of the concept, which is also an essential component of the current Ocean Science Decade (2012-2030) declared by the United Nations. 

While the Ocean Decade supports efforts to reverse the decline in ocean health and facilitate the effort of the global ocean community in responding to the need for adaptation strategies and science-informed policy responses to global change, the need to increase the understanding of and about the ocean is at its core.

We should remember the role of coastal communities and Indigenous Peoples, their experiences, and knowledge crucial to a truly integrative and holistic approach to understanding and protecting marine ecosystems. 

As the youth of Tuktuuyaqtuuq sing in the recent song ‘Don’t Give Up’, we must remember the role of the youth, also for concepts like ocean literacy, providing the opportunity to build valuable capacity for current and future generations. Especially seeing the deep concerns youth share regarding climate change impacts that have been globally displayed since the start of the Fridays For Future movement in 2018.

Thus, the AYO strives to provide a youth perspective for and integrate within the concept of ocean literacy, as its general aspects, that is, strengthening the understanding of the importance and the effects of anthropogenic activities on the ocean, align with the goals of the AYO. 

Especially as the AYO has and continues to make ocean-related information and knowledge more accessible to Youth. Thereby, it is important for us, as the AYO, to create a platform that not only provides information on ocean-related issues and international processes, such as the negotiations of the High Seas Treaty under the auspices of the UN, but even more so, to provide a platform for perspectives, knowledge, and experiences from the Arctic Youth and Northern Coastal Youth. 

Thereby, and in line with the general Arctic Youth Network (AYN) principles, the future path of the AYO is to be a youth-led organization in which the interests, perspectives, and issues of Nordic and Indigenous Youth, especially regarding the Arctic Ocean, are heard, integrated and supported.


Lannuzel, D., Tedesco, L., van Leeuwe, M., Campbell, K., Flores, H., Delille, B., Miller, L., Stefels, J., Assmy, P., Bowman, J., Brown, K., Castellani, G., Chierici, M., Crabeck, O., Damm, E., Else, B., Fransson, A., Fripiat, F., Geilfus, N.-X., … Wongpan, P. (2020). The future of Arctic sea-ice biogeochemistry and ice-associated ecosystems. Nature Climate Change, 10(11), Article 11. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-00940-4

Rantanen, M., Karpechko, A. Y., Lipponen, A., Nordling, K., Hyvärinen, O., Ruosteenoja, K., Vihma, T., & Laaksonen, A. (2022). The Arctic has warmed nearly four times faster than the globe since 1979. Communications Earth & Environment, 3(1), Article 1. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-022-00498-3

Convention on Biological Diversity (2018). Oceans Contain a Wealth of Biodiversity. retrieved from Oceans contain a wealth of biodiversity | Convention on Biological Diversity (cbd.int). accessed 21 January 2023. 

Jashka, A.P. (n.d.) Biodiversity in the Ocean. retrieved from one-ocean-chapter-3.pdf (nationalgeographic.org). accessed 20 January 2023. 

IMBRSea (2019). Ocean Literacy and Education. Ocean Literacy and Education | IMBRSea.

About the Author: Katharina Heinrich

Katharina Heinrich is the Team Lead of the Arctic Youth Network’s Ocean’s Working Group. She is a Junior Researcher at the Arctic Governance Research Group of the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland and is based in Rovaniemi, Finland. She holds a Master´s degree in Polar Law (M.A) from the University of Akureyri, Iceland. In addition to that, she is pursuing a master’s degree in coastal and marine management from the University Centre of the Westfjords, Iceland.

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