Following our previous questionnaire, ‘Stakeholders’ opinions of marine environmental issues’ we wanted to determine what stakeholders value about the coast/sea and to examine how information about the marine environment is being learned/accessed.
We designed a 13-question survey ‘Culture and the Marine Environment’ which was either sent online or placed in post offices, tourist offices and heritage centres at various locations in our study area. In total there were 113 responses.
What did respondents value about the coast/sea? Scenery was rated as the highest and second was recreation (Figure 1). Respondents also valued the coast/sea because it is a place with natural heritage, plants and animals and is a natural asset.
Figure 1: What respondents value about the coast/sea (n=113)
Nearly 70% of respondents said that they visit the coast/sea ‘very often’ which would imply that they are familiar with the coast/sea. The idea of valuing scenery indicates that respondents care about the general appearance and aesthetics of the coast. The issue of marine pollution/litter was identified in our previous survey as one of the main concerns of stakeholders. Marine litter is a visible problem and can have an immediate impact on the value of scenery.
However, respondents were not as concerned about other issues, such as biodiversity loss, sea level rise and ocean acidification. These issues are relatively ‘invisible’ and the impacts of these cannot be readily seen. The effects of the latter issues may not be as evident as marine pollution/litter but they do impact the sustainability of the coast. In order to safeguard the coastal area, does more awareness need to be raised about these less obvious issues so that there is a more in depth understanding of the threats to the coastline?
In our previous questionnaire we asked respondents how informed they were about marine environmental issues.
There was a varying response depending on the issue and this led us to ask: how are stakeholders accessing information about the marine environment? Understanding how stakeholders access information can help to better highlight issues and to inform policy.
According to the survey, respondents mostly access environmental information from national/ local newspapers, TV, first-hand (personal experience) and internet (websites, social media…) (Figure 2).
Figure 2: What ways do stakeholders access information? (n=113)
When taking into account the top three marine environmental issues that stakeholders felt informed about i.e. climate change, over fishing/depletion of stocks and marine pollution/ litter, some observations can be made regarding levels of knowledge in relation to means of accessing information. Climate change and over fishing/depletion of stocks are often documented in newspapers and on TV whereas marine litter is visual and may have been experienced first-hand (personal experience).
With regard to the marine environment, do people absorb information (i.e. through TV, word of mouth, radio) rather than search for it (via internet, magazines, scientific journals or governmental reports)?
If so, then perhaps a more concentrated effort in the way that environmental information is being disseminated could be focused on. Newspapers, TV and internet are media from which a large number of people can find/learn information about the environment and it can help promote conservation. Are such media being used to their full? Social media (Facebook, twitter etc.) is becoming a widely used tool and can contribute to dissemination of environmental information.
Do stakeholders attend outreach events (for example; workshops, public talks, conferences, lectures, dedicated events) and do they think that they make a difference with regard to improving the environment? 35% of respondents said that they attended outreach events and that it was mostly for education/learn, as a work related reason or to have a voice in their community. With nearly two thirds of respondents saying that they do not attend outreach events, are they an effective way to disseminate information about the marine environment?