Wednesday, July 22, 2009

POLL: Public Doesn’t Support Total Ocean Bans, Believes in Reasonable Regulation to Accommodate Fishing and Also Protect Species

MONTEREY, Calif. – July 22, 2009 — The Alliance of Communities for Sustainable Fisheries (ACSF) has released the results of a national public opinion poll revealing the public’s attitudes about ocean conservation which found that the public strongly wants the ocean to be protected, but not with total marine closures.

Respondents expressed a reluctance to place the ocean off limits to human use if those areas and the resources can be used sustainably. The public does support placing areas off limits to all human use, but only if it is to protect rare and fragile habitats, where no sustainable use is possible. And researchers found that the level of support for both commercial and recreational fishing remains strong.

“The public doesn’t support laws or regulations that hurt the nation’s small, independent fishermen or recreational fishing activities,” said Vern Goehring, manager of the California Fisheries Coalition. “They want smart management of marine ecosystems, not total ocean closures that hurt local economies.”

“That’s good news for fishermen and other ocean users, but it also shows that many state and federal officials are out of touch with public opinion as they attempt to close areas of the ocean to human use,” added Kathy Fosmark, Alliance of Communities for Sustainable Fisheries Co-Chair. People just don’t want to be shut out from using the ocean.”

The poll also found that people are concerned about how much seafood is imported into the U.S. for human consumption.

Most (89%) of those surveyed consider it important to provide U.S. caught fish. “I believe that most people would be shocked to discover that over 85% of the seafood we consume comes from foreign sources, many of which have no ocean protective measures in place whatsoever” said Monterey commercial fisherman Mike Ricketts. “I hope that this results in more support from our political leaders for the nation’s fishing men and women”.

“Had this survey been taken BEFORE implementation of the California Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), perhaps many long-time fishing families and businesses would not have been harmed or destroyed,” said Janice Peters, mayor of Morro Bay. “My hope is that with this information, positive changes will be made to the MLPA process that recognize and support the importance of our fishing industry. A balanced, sustainable solution is possible if all stakeholders work together respectfully to achieve it.”

“This public opinion poll offers relevant information to elected officials and other decision-makers when they are considering broad strategies for the management of our marine resources. The Alliance of Communities for Sustainable Fisheries sponsored poll has asked important questions about core public values" stated Steve Scheiblauer, Monterey Harbormaster. “Conservation versus Preservation… it’s good to hear the public’s opinion.”

In addition, the poll showed that the public is willing to accept some change in the ocean’s natural biodiversity in exchange for food production – not clear on what this means?

The nationwide survey results are directly relevant to the new interest in spatial management, the Federal system of Marine Protected Areas, the upcoming Congressional reauthorization of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act and the ongoing California Marine Life Protection Act process, as well as the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s Marine Protected Area process for Federal waters.

The public opinion polls reached 729 people nationally, representing proportionally every state, and were conducted by Responsive Management of Harrisonburg, Virginia, an internationally known polling firm specializing in natural resource issues. The margin of error is 3.63%.

Study and regional spokespersons are available, details of the study are below and the entire study can be viewed at

National Study Highlights

  • An overwhelming majority of U.S. residents support legal recreational fishing (90%) with most of that being strong support. Additionally large majority of U.S. residents support legal recreational fishing in National Forests (80%) and National Parks (78%) and wilderness areas (72%).

  • An overwhelming majority of U.S. residents support legal commercial fishing and shellfish fishing in U.S. waters (86%)

  • Among U.S. residents, 95% support protecting U.S. ocean waters and ocean life; 78% strongly support doing so and another 17% moderately support doing so

  • Posed as an open ended question, respondents were then asked what “protect” means, as in “we should protect ocean waters and ocean life”. The most common responses regarding the meaning of “protect” pertains to managing for sustainable use (29%), protecting rare and fragile habitats or sea life (21%), and protecting the environment against oil spills, pollution, dumping etc. (20%) No other category response received more than 14%, including responses of “full protection—no human use” (8%), protecting “some ocean waters” (3%), protecting a “percentage of ocean waters” (1%)

  • The public’s interest in fully protecting (no human use at all) some U.S. ocean waters is qualified by the public’s sentiment that the areas to be protected in such a manner should be those which have rare and fragile habitats or species.

  • The survey asked respondents if they agree or disagree that some change to the natural biodiversity in U.S. ocean waters is acceptable in exchange for a continued food supply through fishing and shellfish fishing…agreement (71%) far exceeds disagreement (20%).

  • The survey, after informing respondents that approximately 85% of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, asked U.S. residents how important it is to them that the U.S. maintain its ability to supply seafood to U.S. residents rather than depend entirely on imported seafood. U.S. residents rated this quite high…89% said it is important to them, with most of them saying it is very important (70%).

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