Global ocean protection and recovery is needed to tackle climate disruption, reverse biodiversity loss and support human wellbeing – but historically the subject has received little attention from politicians. When the UK hosted the G7 Summit in Cornwall in 2021, ahead of a series of important ocean and climate meetings, the OneOcean Flotilla, a coalition of ocean-focused NGOs, saw a unique opportunity to call on world leaders to take a new approach.
Communications Inc were commissioned to create and run a new campaign calling on leaders to listen to the science and #ListenToTheOcean. The objective was to raise awareness of the critical importance of ocean protection and recovery, and push it much higher up the priority list for G7 nations and the rest of the world.
Approach and delivery
#ListenToTheOcean had three core components. First, we coordinated a letter to G7 climate and environment ministers signed by 79 organisations from across the world, urging them to make ocean action an integral part of discussions on the climate and biodiversity crisis at the summit and the UNFCCC COP26 later in the year.
In addition, we worked with the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) to convene a virtual workshop of experts to outline a plan of action for a sustainable future. In a Scientists’ Statement, they set out seven key asks for the G7, outlining a package of policy and science interventions needed to stop damage to the ocean, to protect, manage and restore it, and to lead a decade of ocean action.
During the summit itself, GPS pollution tracking devices – modelled to behave like single-use plastic bottles and named after the G7 nations – were released into the sea from Cornwall’s beaches, one for each G7 leader, to help scientists understand how plastic moves across the ocean and the potential risk it poses to marine wildlife along the way.. This ‘Message in a Bottle’ component to #ListenToTheOcean allowed us to call on every leader to prevent climate breakdown by providing major insight into oceanographic and meteorological factors that influence plastic as it journeys across the ocean. .
Alongside these activities, we created imagery to use around the campaign, and a #ListenToTheOcean social media toolkit so supporters could amplify the message around the world.
Both the letter and the Scientists’ Statement were discussed by ministers, and the UK pushed successfully for the ocean to be included on the summit agenda – it was mentioned in the closing communiqué, and featured in the 2030 Nature Compact. Several G7 leaders subsequently spoke in favour of ocean protection, including Emmanuel Macron, Joe Biden, Justin Trudeau and the UK Prime Minister.
On social media #ListenToTheOcean was mentioned 2.2k times, reaching a potential audience of more than 25 million, and was supported by well-known influencers. It was also promoted by the High Seas Youth Ambassadors, gaining more than 30k likes with a younger audience on TikTok.
#ListenToTheOcean received extensive coverage in UK media, and featured on the BBC and ITN as well as in the press and on radio; while further afield the campaign was covered in all G7 nations except Canada and Italy. Message in a Bottle garnered considerable attention at its launch, with some outlets showing interest in running follow-up stories over the two years of the experiment’s duration. More Message in a Bottle monitoring devices were released as part of the #ListenToTheOcean campaign during COP26 in 2021 and at the UN Ocean Conference in 2022. The devices continue to provide vital data about the ocean – from information on weather systems to how climate change influences ocean currents. Their journey can be followed on the Message in a Bottle map.