Public perceptions of the UK marine environment
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The damaging effects of human activities on marine health suggest that a major shift is required in the way marine systems are used by individuals. Identifying how to engage society in this shift is an ongoing debate. This includes strengthening the positive connections between society and the sea. This study uses a survey (n¼1047) to investigate UK public perceptions of subtidal species and marine health to assess whether it is possible to build more positive connections between society and the sea. Respondents showed considerable interest in traditionally charismatic species (puffins, seals and seahorses) although many respondents thought these species did not live in UK seas. Gender and experience of marine environments influenced public perceptions of species. Public perceptions of marine health showed issues such as litter to be considered as the greatest indicator of poor health. Ecological concepts of habitat integrity and biodiversity were also rated as important to marine health. Social values were found to influence public perceptions of marine health. The results show that perceptions are far from uniform across the population, and such diversity of perceptions is likely impact upon methods to catalyse societal engagement with marine conservation. These findings reinforce previous research on public perceptions of UK seas, and identify opportunities for building positive connections between society and the sea. Research priorities to further the debate of engaging society with the sea are identified.
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