Leaf Litter

"You Said It" Survey Results

Find out what you and other Leaf Litter readers had to say about ocean health.

By Amy Nelson

Article Index

Ah…the beach. Who doesn’t enjoy staring at the surf, walking through frothy waves, and marveling at the majesty of the sea? According to the results of our survey, Leaf Litter readers not only appreciate the beauty and power of the ocean; they value its many contributions to life on our planet.

A majority (53%) of Leaf Litter readers believe that climate control is the most important ecosystem service provided by oceans. Food and oxygen provision came in second, earning 16% and 15% of your votes, respectively. 8% of you said greenhouse gas absorption, while 2% of you said provision of habitat. 6% of you were not able to label one ecosystem service as the most important.

When we asked what you consider to be the greatest threat to ocean ecosystems, most of you said either climate change (44%) or commercial fishing (43%). 7% of you said illegal dumping; 5% said pollution; and 1% said acidification

Most of you were reluctant to identify one symptom of declining ocean health you found most alarming. While 11% of you chose loss of marine biodiversity; 9% loss of coral reef; 7% disruption of the food web and 3% water quality degradation, a whopping 70% of you answered “All of the above.” Of the readers who responded to the survey, only 16% have been involved in an ocean-based ecological restoration or conservation planning project.

We wanted to know what you consider to be the greatest barrier to improving the health of our oceans. Here’s how you responded:

44%     –           lack of international governance

37%     –           lack of awareness

11%     –           lack of interest

4%       –           lack of funding

2%       –           vastness of oceans

2%       –           other

When we asked what types of conservation and restoration initiatives you think can be most effective in protecting ocean ecosystems?

23% said increase in public awareness

21% think sustainable harvesting

18% said pollution abatement

10% said increase in the establishment of Marine Protected Areas

11% of you said you could not select just one initiative. As one reader put it, “It will take a combination of efforts to show results, with a decrease in land-based threats being the top contributor to poor ocean conditions. Sustainable harvest is also critical, and as the water quality improves, more ingenuity can be applied and have a greater chance of success through active restoration and increased public awareness.”

None of you chose “control and management of invasive species” or “active restoration initiatives to restore declining ocean ecosystems” but 17% of you offered comments:

  • Call a Global Summit on the Oceans.
  • There is no silver bullet. We have to approach conservation from all angles.
  • A world governing body with clout is needed to push for the uncomfortable changes that need to be made in how we all “do business” with the oceans.
  • Active restoration–presuming you include education, governance, and removal of degrading factors as much as possible. These should all be implicit in a successful restoration plan.
  • A number of these are critical elements to any approach. This is a huge system and restoring just one part really will not do much. I chose the first as I’ve seen sustainable fisheries systems and believe that this is one small attainable goal.
  • A ten year ban on harvesting any seafood.
  • Help poor countries become more affluent so they can help the more prosperous nations protect oceans from pollutants.
  • HEAVY and IMMEDIATE regulations on the things that are doing the damage, and enforcement of the regulations with severe penalties. Economic incentives and penalties that make it un-economic to pillage the ocean and treat it like a dump.
  • Combination – active restoration initiatives, sustainable harvesting, and pollution abatement.

We were curious to know who you felt should be responsible for leading ocean conservation and restoration initiatives. Many of you had firm opinions about this.

24% of you said that it should be the responsibility of international government organizations. 20% believe it should be the job of all countries of the world, while 8% of you felt that only countries bordering oceans should be responsible for their restoration and conservation. 5% of you said that initiatives should be led by non-governmental organizations. 2% of you think it is a job for citizens and 1% said academic institutions. The remaining 40% of you believe that some combination of parties should be responsible. Many of you included academic institutions in these combinations. Here are some of your comments:

  • Citizens, governments, and non-profit ocean advocacy organizations
  • A combination of International governing bodies, academic institutions, NGOs and financial institutions
  • Governments collaborating with NGOs and corporations (for funding if nothing else)
  • Realistically, governments are the ones with the clout to back up the initiative.
  • There must be a groundswell from citizens, through awareness, first.
  • Everyone has a role to play. Domestically, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should clearly be the lead, but may need more flexibility and funding to work with international governments, where problems are much harder to address due to some countries’ need to meet basic human necessities of food and shelter.
  • International government organizations, countries, NGOs, citizens
  • International government organizations & countries that border oceans

When it comes to who should foot the bill for these initiatives, more than one third of you (35%) said all countries of the world. 15% of you said international government organizations, and 8% think the money should come from the pockets of only countries bordering oceans.

Many of you say you’d like to learn more about ecosystem decline in Oceans. We hope the information, news and resources in this issue of Leaf Litter get you off to a good start. Here are some of the items you said you want to learn about:

  • Links between urban planning and ocean impacts, so training of folks outside the oceanography profession is critical to raise awareness of the impacts of poor decision making. Coral diseases and predators are ravaging the remaining coral reefs, so that ending overfishing and research on coral disease to come up with treatments for sick corals is also needed.
  • CO2 absorption and coral reef development.
  • A variety of research is needed, but as a scientist, I believe research needs to be focused on solving problems rather than documenting them.
  • How to better manage our fisheries, and how to keep all types of pollution from entering our waterways
  • More research into value and effects of marine protected areas akin to the research that has been conducted on terrestrial protected areas.
  • Connections between ocean decline and issues related to human populations. Strike at our self preservation motivation.
  • I think we already know what the problems are. Time to act, not do more research! Pollution, over fishing, estuary and aquatic nursery destruction, and climate change are all things we already know about. Time to take action and stop talking about it.
  • Tourism-related development of islands (subsequent destruction of coral reefs to allow cruise ship access); also, educational awareness of native peoples of island nations regarding ocean ecology
  • Modeling of continued degradation from climate change and human interference including over-harvesting of resources.
  • Ocean acidification, nutrient cycling and ecosystem response and sustainable protein production and harvest all merit vastly increased support.
  • Research that quantifies the benefits to humans, e.g. health related, such as ocean as a new drug source.
  • Not so much research as a way of packaging the facts that gets through to the average person. There is a lot of research on how to reach the public, but it isn’t put into practice often enough.

As always, we thank you for participating in our reader survey and helping us wade through this vast topic.

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