Initial Publication Date: December 31, 2013

Sustainability & Stewardship Topics in Introductory Oceanography

The following list includes recommended activities, web resources, and teaching suggestions for incorporating sustainability and stewardship topics into Introductory Oceanography courses. This list was gathered together as part of the June 2013 Teaching Oceanography workshop.

Shipping & Transportation

right The shipping and transportation industries are important players in the world economy. Nearly everything we use in our society that is imported is brought to us through ships. Harbors support both fishing and recreational vessel needs. Discussing this topic in an introductory oceanography class allows for discussion on the balance between economic need and environmental consequences as well as risk assessment associated with both.

Coastal management, sand resources, and control structures

Most of the world's population lives within a few feet of sea level. Coastal management is a topic that most impacts global society and that can engage your students, even if they do not live in a coastal community, as their tax money supports coastal living around their country. This topic is ripe for class debates and calculations of costs - economic and environmental and personal - with regards to property, cities, and wetlands.

Mineral and energy resources

The ocean has vast mineral and energy resources, including dissolved matter (e.g. salt, bromine, magnesium), placer deposits (e.g. salt and gravel), precipitated matter (e.g. ferromanganese crust, manganese nodules), oil, and gas. It also has high potential for development of wind energy. This topic lends itself to discussion of the ocean as an economic resource and the [positive and negative] consequences that go along with utilizing ocean resources.

Fisheries and Aquaculture

The fisheries and aquaculture sectors are a major part of global food security, economic balance, and health. Fish and seafood sales are worth billions of dollars annually. Fisheries and aquaculture provide employment globally for hundreds of millions of people. According to the Food and Agricultural Association of the United Nations, back in 2008, "Most of the stocks of the top ten species, which account in total for about 30 percent of the world marine capture fisheries production in terms of quantity, are fully exploited." Meanwhile, fisheries and aquaculture are increasing annually. Fisheries collapse and aquaculture's role in supplementing our resources are key topics for students to explore in relation to both sustainability and social justice.

International Laws of the Sea

International organizations such as the United Nations, The International Maritime Organization, and The International Whaling Commission work to create policies that impact a number of activities that take place in the seas, including fishing, mining, and pollution. Legal agreements are signed by participating and supporting countries. For example, in 1982, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea prescribed a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone surrounding all coastlines globally. Understanding the legalities, supporters, and consequences of these laws as well as the challenges in pushing them forward is a natural area of exploration for students studying the world ocean.

Marine Pollution

Marine pollution can come in many forms including plastic and waste from human activities, oil spills, nutrient runoff from fertilizers, and even sound. Engage your students in discussion and activities about how to lessen the pollution that goes into the ocean and on solutions to cleaning up the pollution that currently exists.

Oceanic contribution to climate change

The ocean and atmosphere interact in many ways, including providing a source and storage for CO2, sea and air currents, and weather events. Explore this interaction through discussion of topics such as thermohaline circulation, El Nino/La Nina events, hurricanes, and more. Engage students in discussion about ocean contribution to climate change, effects of climate change on the ocean (e.g. coral bleaching, changing chemistry of the ocean), policy related to this issue, and more.