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Poll: 80% of Bay Staters Support Permanent Protection of Special Ocean Areas

Coral canyons and seamounts off the Massachusetts coastline are being considered for National Marine Monument Designation. A new Edge Research poll finds overwhelming support for protecting the ocean. (NOAA)
Coral canyons and seamounts off the Massachusetts coastline are being considered for National Marine Monument Designation. A new Edge Research poll finds overwhelming support for protecting the ocean. (NOAA)
July 18, 2016

BOSTON -- A new poll finds that four out of five Bay Staters support permanent protections for the ocean. A poll conducted by the Edge Research found strong bipartisan support for ocean protections, particularly over special areas.

"80 percent of the people polled in Massachusetts support more protections for the ocean,” said Peter Baker, director of ocean conservation in the Northeast for Pew. “A vast majority of them support using monument designations to protect the coral canyons and seamounts."

The poll also found similar support among Rhode Island residents. A group of conservation and education organizations, including the New England Aquarium, proposed that the president protect an area off the New England coast, including five deep coral-filled canyons and four seamounts - or sea mountains - that rise as much as 7,000 feet above the ocean floor.

Lisa Dropkin, who helped conduct the survey for Edge Research, said one important finding was that support remained strong for protection even after those polled were told protections would curtail commercial extraction activities - including fishing.

"So, we did tell people in the survey that protecting these areas could result in some adverse impact on commercial fishing,” Dropkin said. “And that does, in fact, affect people's support. But what was interesting was that support for protection still stayed the majority point of view."

Baker said the special protections would only impact a small area: less than two percent of the U.S. portion of the Atlantic Ocean. But, he said, it is an area of vital importance.

"The New England Aquarium, and the Mystic Aquarium, their scientists have done extensive studies of these areas and found that the coral canyons and sea mounts are some of the most diverse and important ecosystems off the coast of New England,” Baker said.

According to Baker, there are four national marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean, but so far there are none in the Atlantic. 49 organizations have asked President Obama to designate the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts as a Marine National Monument.

Meanwhile, last week House Republicans voted to limit the President's power to designate national monuments.

The survey was commissioned by the Protect New England's Ocean Treasures Coalition, which includes the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA