Poll Shows Strong Support for Ocean Planning Among New Englanders | Conservation Law Foundation

Poll Shows Strong Support for Ocean Planning Among New Englanders

Amanda Yanchury

A new poll of New England residents shows that 66 percent support the implementation of a regional ocean plan in New England – and 64 percent support ocean planning in general, a 5-point increase from 2011. The poll, conducted by Edge Research, consisted of landline and cell phone surveys of 1,500 people in the five coastal New England states, in May and June 2016.

Highlights from the poll results include:

  • Two out of three residents favor implementation of a regional ocean plan in New England.
  • Support is strong across all New England states and political affiliations, with 71 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents, and 51 percent of Republicans saying they favor ocean planning.
  • 87 percent say that “Collecting the best available scientific data and improving our understanding of ocean ecosystems and human uses will result in more informed and better decisions about the management of the ocean.”
  • 88 percent feel that the “Identification and protection of important areas of ocean wildlife and habitat will ensure the long-term health of the ocean and its wildlife.”

This result shows that New Englanders are strongly on board with the implementation of a comprehensive Regional Ocean Plan that will protect ocean wildlife and habitats and promote a healthy ocean ecosystem and thriving coastal communities.

We hope this strong support signals to our region’s decision makers the importance of strengthening the conservation elements in the final Northeast Regional Ocean Plan, a draft of which was released to the public in May. We also hope they hit the ground running when it comes to putting the plan into action, prioritizing ocean health and the protection of wildlife and habitat so that all of us who rely on the ocean can continue to benefit from it for work, recreation, clean energy, transportation, food, and more.

The State of the Ocean in New England

Residents were asked a variety of questions about the health of our local patch of ocean. Overall, New Englanders have a sense that the ocean is doing generally well – not great, and not terrible: 54 percent said the ocean in New England is in very good or good health, compared to 41 percent who say it’s in fair or poor health.

And though more than half say the ocean is in good health, people do perceive some threats to ocean health as areas of major concern. Most people responded that pollution, climate change, coastal erosion, and overfishing are the greatest threats to ocean health, with a high of 70 percent of respondents saying that “plastic, trash and debris that ends up in the ocean” is an “extremely” or “very” serious threat. Threats that are either visible to residents or that they’d heard about the most tended to be of most concern to them.

Measures of Success for Ocean Planning

Most New Englanders think a regional ocean plan will be a success if certain important outcomes are met: If coastal communities and people who depend on ocean resources for their livelihood are able to make a living (77 percent); if ocean health is monitored over the long term (74 percent); if important species and habitat are identified and mapped so state and federal agencies can make better decisions about where and what to protect (71 percent); and if comprehensive data is collected and mapped so ocean management decisions are made with the best available science and data (71 percent).

New Englanders also want to see ocean conservation and minimizing environmental impacts as the top priorities when evaluating new commercial uses of the ocean (68 percent). In addition, residents want state and federal agencies to include native tribes, people who directly use ocean resources, and the public as part of the process through which ocean management decisions are made (68 percent).

Next Steps

The Northeast Regional Ocean Plan is currently being finalized by the Regional Planning Body and will be submitted for approval by the National Ocean Council this fall. CLF hopes that the Regional Planning Body will address the many public comments calling for stronger conservation measures in the final plan, including the identification and conservation of important ecological areas.

Results of this regionwide poll demonstrate strong public support for ocean planning and the importance New Englanders place on the conservation of ocean wildlife and habitats as clear outcomes of the final ocean plan.

Edge Research serves a broad range of clients, including Fortune 1000 companies, startups, nonprofits, and government agencies. With ocean-related survey work extending over the last 15 years, Edge Research is recognized as the chief pollster for ocean issues. More details on the poll methodology and results can be found here.



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