New Poll: 4 Out of 5 Massachusetts and Rhode Island Residents Support Permanent Protection of Special Ocean Areas | Conservation Law Foundation

New Poll: 4 Out of 5 Massachusetts and Rhode Island Residents Support Permanent Protection of Special Ocean Areas

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Logo-ProtectNewEnglandsOceanTreasuresCampaignCLF: Josh Block, (617) 850-1709
Pew Charitable Trusts: Christine Fletcher, (202) 540-6908
NRDC: Jenny Powers, (212) 727-4566
Edge Research: Lisa Dropkin, (703) 842-0200

Obama Administration considering a national monument designation off New England’s coast

July 11, 2016 (BOSTON, MA) – Eighty percent of people polled both in Massachusetts and Rhode Island favor permanently protecting special places in the ocean as is done on land, according to a new poll. Respondents gave strong support when asked about specific places like those currently proposed for permanent protection in the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts, and bipartisan majorities favor President Obama taking action.

“This poll validates what we’ve heard from hundreds of thousands of people across New England and the country – that they overwhelmingly support permanently protecting rare, unique places in the ocean from constant and increasing threats,” said Priscilla Brooks, Vice President and Director of Ocean Conservation at Conservation Law Foundation. “We hope the people’s loud and clear voice calling for a marine national monument in New England’s waters will reach our region’s congressional leaders and the president.”

The poll included 400 residents in Massachusetts and 403 residents in Rhode Island and was conducted by Edge Research by telephone between June 21 and July 1. Highlights include:

  • 80% of both Massachusetts and Rhode Island residents think special places in the ocean deserve permanent protection from drilling, mining and fishing, and 78% favor permanent protection for “unique deep-sea canyons, extinct volcanoes, and deep-water corals” such as those found in the New England coral canyons and seamounts area.
  • Support was sustained across all political affiliations, including after respondents were asked if they favor the president taking action to permanently protect the specific areas described.
  • A majority of respondents maintain their support for protecting the areas even after being told that protection could mean prohibiting drilling, mining or fishing activity, and that an adverse economic impact could result. Even considering negative economic impacts, less than a third of respondents oppose protection.
  • 87% of respondents say a healthy ocean is important to them personally, including 71% who say it is “very important.”

“We often see strong support in polls for ocean conservation, and these results are among the most positive I have seen,” said Lisa Dropkin, a Principal at Edge Research, the non-partisan marketing research firm that conducted the poll. “By a wide margin, people reported that ocean health is important to them and demonstrated bipartisan support for ocean protection.”

The Obama Administration is considering designating New England’s Coral Canyons and Seamounts as the only marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean. The area, more than 150 miles off New England’s coast, includes five massive canyons – some deeper than the Grand Canyon – cut into the continental shelf. Four nearby seamounts, the only such formations in the U.S. Atlantic, rise from the ocean floor. Fragile and ancient deep-sea corals, some more than a thousand years old, form the foundation of a rich ecosystem. The waters above host tuna, sea turtles, seabirds, and what scientists believe to be the highest diversity of whales, dolphins and porpoises in the North Atlantic.

Another potential area the Coalition has identified as worthy of permanent protection is the Cashes Ledge area in the Gulf of Maine, about 80 miles southeast of Portland. Named for a steep ridge rising from a deep muddy basin to just 40 feet below the water’s surface, the area is a rich mix of peaks and valleys. Besides the immense cold-water kelp forest – the largest on the U.S. East Coast – the area has a diverse array of habitats and is a proven hotspot for a variety of marine animals. Found here are iconic New England fish like cod and pollock, rare Atlantic wolffish, sea turtles, migrating schools of bluefin tuna, and blue and basking sharks.

Momentum for designating a New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is growing. Last week, 49 organizations sent a letter to the President, asking for him to take action, and experts at NRDC released a white paper analyzing fishing activity around the New England Canyons and Seamounts and potential impacts of a monument on the fishing industry. Since September, more than 275,000 people – including business owners, boaters, surfers, beachgoers, scientists, educators, members of faith-based organizations, and elected officials – have sent their own letters expressing their support for permanent protection.

The scientific case for protecting the areas is also building. In March, scientists completed a wide-ranging analysis of existing science about the two areas, which demonstrated they are hot spots for marine mammals, seabirds, and diverse habitats. Earlier this year, Audubon’s Puffin Project scientists discovered the canyons and seamounts and the Cashes Ledge area are part of the mystery wintering grounds for Atlantic puffins.

The poll consisted of calls to 400 people in Massachusetts and 403 Rhode Islanders and was conducted between June 21 and July 1, 2016. It used a standard random digit-dial landline and cell phone sample technique and controlled interviewing techniques to ensure representation of the populations’ gender, age, ethnicity and county residency. The margin of error for each state sample is +/- 5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

The Protect New England’s Ocean Treasures Coalition commissioned Edge Research to design and administer the poll and analyze the results. Edge Research serves a broad range of clients including Fortune 1000 companies, start-ups, non-profits 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.

The Protect New England’s Ocean Treasures Coalition, which is advocating for the establishment of a Marine National Monument in the North Atlantic Ocean, is composed of Center for American Progress, Conservation Law Foundation, Earthjustice, Environment America, Mystic Aquarium, National Geographic Society, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, New England Aquarium, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

View the Edge Research memo summarizing the findings here. View more detailed poll results here.


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