April 8, 2024
Ocean Sewage Alliance

5 Insights from Ocean Sewage Market Research

Collaborating with partners FLUSH and Point of Shift, the Uniting Our Voice working group engaged stakeholders in marine conservation and aquaculture to uncover insights crucial for advancing OSA's strategic goals.

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

The Uniting Our Voice working group, in collaboration with partners FLUSH and Point of Shift, recently completed a comprehensive market research project aimed at advancing the Ocean Sewage Alliance’s (OSA) strategic goals to Unite Our Voice and Empower Champions. This collaborative effort engaged stakeholders in the marine conservation and aquaculture sectors to uncover insights that can catalyze awareness, foster collaboration, and empower champions to eliminate sewage and wastewater pollution in our oceans.


The research initiative engaged 32 key stakeholders and gathered 25 survey responses from individuals in the marine conservation and aquaculture sectors. To inform OSA on crafting external messaging, the study focused on understanding these two target audiences while identifying priority groups like coastal conservation organizations and aquaculture/commercial fishing entities. This market research provided valuable insights and laid the groundwork for a replicable approach in future endeavors that focus on additional priority audiences.


1. Sewage Can Be Approachable

Respondents noted that OSA embodies a robust coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to preventing pollution from wastewater and septic tanks from seeping into the ocean. Through active engagement and a vibrant communication style characterized by humor and positivity, OSA has successfully made ocean advocacy enjoyable for its supporters. Contacts found OSA's approachable human voice refreshing, illustrating that change is not only attainable but also tangible, as OSA demonstrates what effective change looks like.

2. Common Ground in a Vast Sea

Participants highlighted key issues such as climate change, ocean acidification, and warming oceans, all of which underscore the urgency of addressing sewage pollution. Notably, the shellfish industry has a longstanding commitment to reducing sewage in the ocean, driven by the imperative to safeguard water quality and preserve the integrity of their products. However, the complexity of the issue has often led to fragmented efforts, with organizations working in silos to tackle sewage contamination in their respective spheres.

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3. Pinpointing Source Pollution is Hard

Understanding the origins of ocean pollution presents a challenge. Various sources contribute to nutrient pollution, including ocean vessels, septic systems, stormwater overflows, and agricultural runoff. However, discerning the precise source of contamination can be difficult. Wastewater treatment facilities filter pathogens but struggle with nitrogen removal, whereas septic systems, although cost-effective, are less proficient in pathogen prevention. 

This complexity underscores the need for collaborative efforts in sewage management to identify the most effective solutions. As highlighted by researchers, human sewage-derived nitrogen reaches about 58% of the world’s coral reefs and 88% seagrass beds.

4. Sewage Coliforms Affect Everyone

Interviewees from each audience remarked on their concerns of fecal bacteria in the environment affecting public health and recreational activities like beach closures. Within aquaculture, the shellfish industry is acutely impacted by sewage in state ocean waters affecting food safety and their livelihoods.

The Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference was started in the 1980s to establish clean water regulations for oyster harvesting. They set the guidelines for shellfish on all coasts, including frequency and variety of water quality testing methods, acceptable proximity to urban areas and wastewater discharge points, and best practices for harvesting in extreme weather conditions.

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5. External Messaging Is Unclear

The clarity of OSA's external messaging emerged as a concern among respondents. They highlighted the need for tailored communication strategies to meet diverse stakeholder needs. 

While ocean conservation NGOs underscored the significance of knowledge sharing and amplifying conservation efforts, the aquaculture and fishery sectors prioritized advocacy for water quality and technical training initiatives. Additionally, participants expressed an interest in accessing resources and materials.

Kimberly Worsham, Founder and Principal of FLUSH, said, “This research is really important for OSA and the sanitation sector. It was fascinating to see how some sectors that don’t communicate with each other are actually focused on the same problems and forming similar goals, even if their approaches are different. That’s the richness of OSA’s network - we can only tackle ocean sewage with everyone chipping away at each pillar.”

Download the full report here.

"This project embodies our vision at OSA of working together to create positive change,” said Jasmine Fournier, executive director. “It's inspiring to see how our collective efforts are aligning with our strategic goals, bringing us closer to a cleaner and healthier ocean."

Reflecting on the research findings, Stewart Sarkozy-Banocy, Chair of the Steering Committee, emphasized, "The importance of clear external messaging cannot be overstated. This project underscores our commitment to honing our communication strategies, ensuring that our message resonates with diverse audiences and drives meaningful action."

To delve deeper into the research and explore actionable insights, we invite you to download the full report here. Let's unite our voices, empower champions, and make waves of positive change together.