With tomorrow being World Oceans Day, the University of Wollongong has pulled off some nice timing with the launch of its new "blue economy" project aimed at linking south coast communities and their marine industries.
But first the researchers want to hear from the people of this coast about how they use - and value - the ocean in their daily lives.
Their "blue economy" model aims to maximise the social and economic benefits that communities derive from the oceans, while protecting important ecosystems and minimising environmental damage.
More than 20 academics from across UOW are involved in "road testing" the model to see if such a project can be established on the South Coast.
The research aims to change the way the world uses its oceans to improve the lives of those dependent on itDr Michelle Voyer
Project leader Dr Michelle Voyer, a Research Fellow at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS), said the community can help with the applied case study.
"We want to uncover the attitudes and connections people hold towards the coastline and ocean, and how they use the coast and ocean in their daily lives," Dr Voyer said.
"By understanding the way people connect with and value the oceans we can begin to understand the type of futures they would like to see for their coastal environments.
"By exploring the concept of blue economies and testing it here on the South Coast of NSW the research aims to change the way the world uses its oceans to improve the lives of those dependent on it."
The research team has launched an interactive online story map that aims to introduce the public to the idea of a blue economy and to build a vision for a "blue future" for the region.
Users can scroll down a map of the South Coast, from the Illawarra to the Victorian border, and see how the coastline has been used in the past, what role marine industries play in the regional economy, and contribute their own ideas about which marine industries they would like to see grow and develop in the future.
The researchers will take stock of the marine industries that exist across the South Coast region, as well as the challenges they face, what opportunities might exist, and where the region has a competitive advantage.