Aquaculture Literacy at NOAA
Learn how a community of practice is enhancing the public’s understanding of aquaculture.
Aquaculture literacy refers to a community’s familiarity with information about aquaculture and related environmental, economic, and social topics. Enhancing aquaculture literacy helps community members, both individually and collectively, to confidently participate in discussions about aquaculture. This knowledge transfer is key to communities understanding the challenges and opportunities of seafood farming.
In 2020, NOAA’s Office of Aquaculture, Office of Education, and the National Sea Grant Office collaborated to establish a Community of Practice for Aquaculture Literacy (CoPAL). This effort seeks to connect educators with aquaculture experts and practitioners across the nation, both within the agency and externally, that share a common interest in educating the public about aquaculture.
CoPAL builds capacity for NOAA and its partners to offer high quality informal and formal aquaculture education and outreach resources by collaborating more consistently, sharing best practices, and leveraging existing efforts.
Aquaculture is a Complex Topic
Public awareness of aquaculture plays an important role in unlocking its full potential to support healthy people, a healthy planet, and a healthy economy. However, with a wide variety of species grown and gear types used, aquaculture can mean many different things to different audiences. Evidence shows that support for aquaculture is associated with the public’s understanding of its benefits and potential challenges, trust in scientists and the process of science, and confidence in the credibility of the sources providing public audiences with information.
U.S. public audiences’ limited understanding of base-level information about aquaculture and seafood production influences how communities understand, support, and make decisions about the sector. Environmental educators and informal learning institutions such as aquariums provide effective platforms through which to build collaborative relationships with, and provide credible aquaculture information to, the general public.
Partnering Across Sectors Diversifies Perspectives
Although aquaculture topics span many sectors and are relevant to a diversity of communities, most of the public still has limited understanding of aquaculture. They may even encounter information that is out of date, inaccurate, or incomplete. Stakeholders rely on agencies like NOAA to ensure that consistent and accurate information is accessible and represents diverse perspectives. Having a trusted science source or community member share accurate information increases aquaculture and sustainable seafood literacy.
To address these knowledge and access gaps, NOAA has worked closely with outreach and education specialists from the Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers (CELC) network since 2017 on an aquaculture initiative. CELC and NOAA collaborate on resources in order to improve public awareness of advancements in seafood farming and its associated benefits and challenges.
Millions of people visit CELC institutions every year. By working closely with these aquariums, NOAA provides them with the latest research and information on sustainable aquaculture, while also learning about community needs and perceptions from these place-based organizations. Partnering with CELC members allows NOAA to engage communities across the country on issues that local communities find important.
Supporting On the Ground Literacy Efforts
In order to support the mutual aquaculture literacy goals of the CELC network, informal educators, and aquaculture industry partners, NOAA teamed up with the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE). Known as eeBLUE, NOAA’s Office of Education and NAAEE have a 5-year partnership in place to increase environmental and science literacy among NOAA’s partners and external networks. Through a 2021 Aquaculture Literacy mini-grants program, eeBLUE is funding projects that build partnerships between (1) informal learning institutions (e.g., aquariums), (2) aquaculture industry experts (e.g. the farming community), and (3) NOAA.
Building and supporting these partnerships better connects each sector’s best practices for outreach and engagement. By working together to enhance public aquaculture literacy, the eeBLUE Aquaculture Literacy Mini-Grant projects are:
- Bringing aquaculture education programming to institutions and/or target audiences currently lacking resources;
- Building the capacity of environmental education providers to offer high quality programming in informal and formal settings by matching aquaculture communication needs with existing research; and
- Developing creative approaches for public engagement that promote a culture that values innovation, exploration, and community-relevant learning as a context for improving public aquaculture literacy.
Supporting Material and How to Get Involved
Sign up for our listserv to stay up-to-date with CoPAL resources including events, funding opportunities, and communications tools.
To learn more about NOAA’s aquarium partnerships, including how education and outreach can help enhance public aquaculture literacy, watch our recorded webinar.
Watch NMFS February 2021 webinar: Lessons Learned and Next Steps for NOAA’s Community of Practice for Aquaculture Literacy (CoPAL).
To understand the approach and rationale behind this effort, take a look at this informational packet.
Download one-page overviews of the CELC Network and CELC Aquaculture Initiative.
Expand your knowledge of current aquaculture and sustainable seafood practices with NOAA Aquaculture’s Outreach and Educational Materials.