June 8, 2019

Focus for 2019: Gender and the Ocean [World Oceans Day]

Posted by Laura Guertin

Last year, I wrote two blog posts in honor of World Oceans Day and National Ocean Month – see Celebrate the ocean and NOAA in June and AGU Policy Action Center facilitates advocacy for NOAA funding. This year, I’ll be adding a few more posts to help call attention to the global celebration of our ocean (my “Celebrate” post goes in to more about ‘ocean’ versus ‘oceans’ month).

The United Nations declares and celebrates different themes on different days as “…occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity …. the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool.” In 2008, World Oceans Day was added to the calendar of annual days of awareness and calls to action. Did you know that June is also the month with the highest number of international days? (see UN Why Do We Mark International Days?)

The goal the United Nations is trying to achieve with World Oceans Day seems to be working. There are many news stories and other ocean-themed headlines appearing in print and online. An editorial appeared in Science titled A new narrative for the ocean. Google has revealed New views of beauty and fragility in underwater Street View. And NSF dedicated their weekly video of 4 Awesome Discoveries You Probably Didn’t Hear About This Week to World Oceans Day:

Additional videos can be found online – you may want to start with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s YouTube playlist for World Oceans Day.


“Confronting gender inequality is essential to achieving the ocean-related Goal and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We must ensure an end to unsafe work conditions and guarantee that women have an equal role in managing ocean-related activities.”
— UN Secretary-General António Guterres

This year’s theme for World Oceans Day is Gender and the Ocean. Many social media posts and articles are highlighting the connection between Sustainable Development Goals #5 (Gender Equality) and #14 (Life Below Water).

AGU’s EOS has published a strong article titled Women in Oceanography Still Navigate Rough Seas. In fact, AGU is highlighting ocean researchers the entire month of June (see Science in the Deep). Some groups are calling attention specifically to female oceanographers, such as tweets posted by World Meteorological Organization.

As with all of these individual days of celebration, I especially hope that this day and this theme does not disappear after June 8th. I hope additional graphics such as the one below published by the United Nations continue to appear and remind us that there is still much work to be done. As stated by the United Nations on the World Oceans Day website:

We have an opportunity to explore the gender dimension of humankind’s relationship with the ocean.

This year, we strive to build greater ocean and gender literacy, and to discover possible ways to promote gender equality in ocean-related activities such as marine scientific research, fisheries, labour at sea, migration by sea and human trafficking, as well as policy-making and management.

The importance of gender equality — in particular for the effective conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources — is increasingly recognized. However, there is very little data and research on these issues, and a concerted action towards gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is still needed in all ocean-related sectors to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5.