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Oceans Past 2020: OPVIII Virtual Conference

Oceans Past 2020: OPVIII Virtual Conference 

Lightning Talk on Ocean Decade Heritage Network (ODHN)

14 May 2020

By Antony Firth, Co-chair, ODHN

Script of talk presented at the workshop:

The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-30 is a major initiative intended to stimulate marine sciences to inform sustainability, which is framed in terms of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs), sometimes referred to as the 2030 Agenda.

The Ocean Decade is being led by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission – IOC – which is part of the UNESCO family of UN bodies.


The vision for the Ocean Decade is ‘The science we need for the ocean we want’.

Its mission links knowledge, transformational action, the ocean, and sustainable development.

The Ocean Decade uses a broad definition of science that encompasses social sciences and humanities, which is encouraging.

The Ocean Decade has seven outcomes or societal objectives. At least three of these outcomes require a historical perspective on human-ocean interactions:

  • A healthy and resilient ocean where marine ecosystems are mapped and protected
  • A predicted ocean where society has the capacity to understand present and future ocean conditions
  • A productive and sustainably harvested ocean ensuring the provision of food supply and stable livelihoods

However, in its activities and documentation so far, it seems clear that the Ocean Decade has an under-developed sense of the human time-depth of the oceans. This could critically undermine its capacity to achieve transformational change.


The Ocean Decade Heritage Network has been formed to raise awareness of the human history of the sea within the Ocean Decade.

We are mostly archaeologists with a focus on tangible cultural heritage in coastal and marine environments, but we welcome anyone with an interest in the human history of the sea.

It would be great to have Oceans Past working with us and alongside us to convince the Ocean Decade that a better understanding of the human history of the oceans is integral to future sustainability.

Please take a look at the poster, our published article, Twitter feed and website … and please get in touch.

Thank you.