For immediate release

January 29, 2020 — Recently released polling reveals Atlantic Canadians recognize the ocean’s importance to Atlantic Canada’s economy while strongly supporting increased marine protection. The polling was conducted in August and September of 2019, with 1500 respondents split between Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

Atlantic Canadians greatly value the ocean’s role in our collective prosperity: 99% of respondents stated that the ocean and the marine environment are important to the region’s economy. A majority (63%) also thought that policies and laws that protect the environment help to grow the economy.

“People sometimes set up a false choice between a sustainable economy and a healthy environment,” says Susanna Fuller, Oceans North’s Vice-President of Operations and Projects. “But most Atlantic Canadians understand that policies which protect our ocean are also fundamental to enhance and protect sustainable livelihoods.”

Beyond its dollar value, respondents valued the ocean for its other contributions to wellbeing, as well as its intrinsic worth: People cited the ocean’s natural beauty, its importance as a food source, and its ecosystem and wildlife. 72% of respondents also stated that they had access to fresh seafood, suggesting that the ocean is an important aspect of food security.

“Our experience working in coastal communities has taught us that people care deeply about the ocean and wish to see it protected from a wide variety of threats,” said Matthew Abbott, Marine Program Director at the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. ” This poll suggests that decision makers should value ocean health highly to address the concerns of Atlantic Canadians.”

While the establishment of marine protected areas has been contentious in some coastal communities, 86% of respondents supported a protected area where they live.

“Given the pressures of climate change, on top of our other uses of the oceans, the federal, Indigenous and provincial governments need to work with communities to create more strong protected areas, in the right places throughout our region, to safeguard the ocean nature that is so important to people in Atlantic Canada, “ says Roberta Clowater, Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s New Brunswick chapter.

When asked about major threats to the marine environment, plastic and pollution were top of mind (83% and 82% respectively). These were followed by climate change (67%), overfishing (59%), oil tankers and offshore oil and gas (48%), and finally shipping and transport (21%). Participants supported stronger laws for pollution and plastic (86%), the oil and gas industry (74%), and fisheries (61%) to address these threats. In terms of specific measures to protect the ocean, 85% supported protecting endangered species and 73% supported creating protected areas.

With regards to specific species measures, 86% of those who were aware of the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale felt that protection efforts and conservation was highly important.

When asked who they trusted the most to manage and protect the ocean, 40% of respondents mentioned the federal and provincial governments. Others listed conservation organizations, the fishing industry, local communities and scientists. “It’s clear that we all need to work together through a collective effort to keep our ocean healthy, so that the benefits we have today can be here for future generations of Atlantic Canadians,” says Fuller.

Polling supported by The Ocean Foundation.

For more information, please contact:

Susanna D. Fuller, VP Operations and Projects, Oceans North

susannafuller@oceansnorth.ca | 902-483-5033

Matt Abbott, Director of Marine Programs, Conservation Council of New Brunswick / Conseil de Conservation Nouveau Brunswick

matt.abbott@conservationcouncil.ca | 506-321-0429

Roberta Clowater, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, New Brunswick Chapter / Société pour la nature et les parcs du Canada – section Nouveau-Brunswick

rclowater@cpaws.org | 506-452-9902