Public awareness, concerns, and priorities about anthropogenic impacts on marine environments

Stefan Gelcich, Paul Buckley, John K. Pinnegar, Jason Chilvers, Irene Lorenzoni, Geraldine Terry, Matias Guerrero, Juan Carlos Castilla, Abel Valdebenito, Carlos M. Duarte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

179 Citations (Scopus)
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Numerous international bodies have advocated the development of strategies to achieve the sustainability of marine environments. Typically, such strategies are based on information from expert groups about causes of degradation and policy options to address them, but these strategies rarely take into account assessed information about public awareness, concerns, and priorities. Here we report the results of a pan-European survey of public perceptions about marine environmental impacts as a way to inform the formation of science and policy priorities. On the basis of 10,106 responses to an online survey from people in 10 European nations, spanning a diversity of socioeconomic and geographical areas, we examine the public’s informedness and concern regarding marine impacts, trust in different information sources, and priorities for policy and funding. Results show that the level of concern regarding marine impacts is closely associated with the level of informedness and that pollution and overfishing are two areas prioritized by the public for policy development. The level of trust varies greatly among different information sources and is highest for academics and scholarly publications but lower for government or industry scientists. Results suggest that the public perceives the immediacy of marine anthropogenic impacts and is highly concerned about ocean pollution, overfishing, and ocean acidification. Eliciting public awareness, concerns, and priorities can enable scientists and funders to understand how the public relates to marine environments, frame impacts, and align managerial and policy priorities with public demand.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15042–15047
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)
Issue number42
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • ocean literacy
  • ocean impacts
  • Europe
  • attitudes
  • ocean health

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