Climate change, overfishing, marine pollution and other anthropogenic drivers threaten our global oceans. More effective efforts are urgently required to improve the capacity of marine conservation action worldwide, as highlighted by the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021–2030. Marine citizen science presents a promising avenue to enhance engagement in marine conservation around the globe. Building on an expanding field of citizen science research and practice, we present a global overview of the current extent and potential of marine citizen science and its contribution to marine conservation. Employing an online global survey, we explore the geographical distribution, type and format of 74 marine citizen science projects. By assessing how the projects adhere to the Ten Principles of Citizen Science (as defined by the European Citizen Science Association), we investigate project development, identify challenges and outline future opportunities to contribute to marine science and conservation. Synthesizing the survey results and drawing on evidence from case studies of diverse projects, we assess whether and how citizen science can lead to new scientific knowledge and enhanced environmental stewardship. Overall, we explore how marine citizen science can inform current understanding of marine biodiversity and support the development and implementation of marine conservation initiatives worldwide.
This article is part of the theme issue ‘Integrative research perspectives on marine conservation’.