Today (8 June – World Ocean Day), the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Ocean Conservation Trust have published the results of the largest ever ocean literacy survey held in England and Wales, which measured public awareness, attitudes, knowledge and behaviours related to the marine environment and ocean climate change.
The survey underlines the important link between the health of our ocean and the multiple pressures on it – with 94% believing that the fate of the ocean and humans is inextricably linked.
85% of people say that marine protection is personally important to them, with 78% having already made or plan on making lifestyle changes to protect the marine environment.
The survey highlights that the public gain physical and mental health benefits from our marine environment as the UK puts nature at the heart of its COP26 and G7 Presidencies and is calling for the protection of at least 30% of the ocean by 2030.
The survey reveals feelings the public associate most with the marine environment are a sense of awe and wonder (42%) and concern (49%). The survey also found strong support for global action on climate change, biodiversity loss and marine pollution.
This comes as the UK is putting nature at the heart of its G7 and COP26 Presidencies, and is championing and driving forward the protection of at least 30% of the ocean by 2030 through the Global Ocean Alliance.
The key findings include:
- A strong connection to the ocean with 85% of people saying that protecting the marine environment was personally very important or important.
- Evidence of strong physical and mental health benefits of our marine environment. Of those who had visited our coastlines, 80% said it was good for their physical health and 84% said it was good for their mental health.
- The public feel that marine litter and plastic pollution (74%) is the greatest threat to the marine environment, followed by the chemical pollution (57%) and overfishing (54%).
- Protecting and restoring marine environments which remove carbon was the top choice to address the effect of climate change on our marine environment (43%), closely followed by international commitments to reducing emissions (41%).
- The study reveals the role that documentaries such as the popular Blue Planet and the ‘Attenborough effect’ may have on the understanding of the threats facing our seas with 47% of people receiving information on the state of our oceans from wildlife documentaries.
- 78% said they had or plan to make lifestyle changes to protect the marine environment. The most common reasons for making these changes was concern about climate change (69%) and a desire to be greener (68%).
Rebecca Pow, Environment Minister, said: “It is clear people feel a strong connection with our beautiful ocean and coastlines. This is not only really welcome it is also so important if we are to tackle the impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss and preserve our marine environment for future generations to enjoy.
“The UK is a global leader in marine protection. We have already established a ‘blue belt’ of marine protection extending across 38% of UK waters and are using our COP26 and G7 Presidencies to put ocean recovery at the heart of international action.”
Nicola Bridge, Head of Conservation Education & Communications at Ocean Conservation Trust, said: “As the Ocean conservation charity working to develop this survey, we are thrilled to learn that more of the public are understanding climate change and its link to human actions. It is especially important to learn from this work to push for increased protection of our Ocean during UN’s Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.”
Overall, the survey reveals that the public recognises the integral role our marine environment can play in combatting climate change as well as its day-to-day value to us as individuals.
As the UN Decade of Ocean Science of Sustainable Development formally launches, this survey highlights how ocean science will play a key role in informing efforts to improve our understanding of our marine environment and how best to increase ocean sustainability and resilience to help combat climate change.
This survey will inform future policy and help Defra, partner organisations and stakeholders understand more about the awareness of ocean issues in England and Wales.