Public Opinion Important to Ocean Policy Decisions

Written by on October 20, 2014 in Policy & Ocean Law

A study published earlier this month found that public opinion should inform policy decisions about the oceans. The study suggests that “managerial, scientific and policy priorities should be more responsive to public values.”

Ribbon Reef, Australia.

Ribbon Reef, Australia. Photo credit: oemebamo via photopin cc.

The study, co-authored by Winthrop Professor Carlos Duarte, director of The University of Western Australia’s Oceans Institute, was based on an online survey of more than 10,000 members of the public — the first time a study like this has been undertaken on such a large scale. The survey examined the public’s level of understanding and concern regarding the ocean, their trust in different information sources, and priorities for funding and policy.

Survey participants selected ocean pollution and overfishing as the two most pressing issues in the ocean and the ones they felt the most informed about. They also highlighted ocean acidification. These results demonstrate that the public’s level of concern is “closely related” to how informed they feel about certain issues. It also revealed that the level of concern increased with the frequency with which the participants visited the coast.

The survey shows that public information on ocean issues leads to concern and support for scientific research,” Professor Duarte said in a news release. “However, the public tend to receive a distorted image of the state of the ocean, often exaggerating the extent of impacts relative to available evidence.”

This study shows just how important it is to communicate how individuals can negatively or positively impact the marine environment “as a way to incentivize individuals to take greater personal responsibility for the oceans,” the authors wrote.

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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