The ocean is increasingly facing direct and indirect threats from multiple human activities that alter ecosystems worldwide. Mitigating these threats requires a global shift in the way people perceive and interact with the marine environment. In this sense, marine public perceptions research has emerged as a useful tool to understand public awareness and attitudes towards the sea.
This study compares available surveys of public perceptions of marine threats and protection involving over 32.000 respondents across 21 countries.
The study reveals that citizens from around the world have a clear understanding that the ocean is threatened by human activities, and that pollution and fishing as well as habitat alteration, climate change and biodiversity loss are major threats. The results indicate that 70% of respondents believe the marine environment is under threat from human activities, and 45% believe the threat is high or very high. However, when asked about the ocean’s health, only 15% thought it was poor or threatened.
In relation to ocean protection, the obtained results show that, generally, most respondents support marine protected areas (MPAs) and want to see a higher amount of ocean area protected. The authors point out that this does not necessarily mean that people are willing to give up goods and benefits gained from ocean uses or are willing to pay more for protection and management. However, the study highlights that increased awareness and concern about ocean threats and protection could translate into changing of individual behaviors as well as regional, national and international stewardship and governance. In addition, the authors point out to the importance of enhancing marine education and ocean literacy programs to help increase people’s understanding of the ocean.
Overall, the authors state that this study shows a clear picture of the perceived threats and support for protection which can inform marine managers, conservation practitioners and educators to improve marine management and conservation programs.
Lotze HK, Guest H, O’Leary J, Tuda A, Wallace D (2018) Public perceptions of marine threats and protection from around the world. Ocean & Coastal Management 152:12-22