Overwhelming support for more ambitious Canadian ocean protection targets, new survey finds

OTTAWA – Over 90 per cent of Canadians support the call to protect 30 per cent of the country’s oceans by 2030, according to a survey released today by Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, David Suzuki Foundation, West Coast Environmental Law and World Wildlife Fund Canada. This high level of support for ambitious targets aligns with an increase in pessimism about the state of Canada’s oceans, with half of Canadians saying they think ocean health is only fair or poor — a 12-point increase since the survey was last issued in 2016. The results come from a public opinion survey conducted by Environics Research.    
Currently, about eight per cent of Canada’s ocean is protected, according to the federal government, which has pledged to protect at least 10 per cent by 2020. However, research suggests this will not be enough to effectively protect marine species and habitats.
Survey highlights:

There is consistent, strong support for ocean protection among Canadians.

  • Since at least 2012, Canadians have agreed that ocean protection is an important way to reduce environmental impact.
  • 65 per cent“strongly support” marine protected areas (MPAs), 32 per cent “somewhat support” them and only three per cent oppose them.
  • Nearly three out of four Canadians feel strongly about prioritizing ocean protections to sustain coastal economies, rather than allowing industrial activities in all parts of the ocean.
  • A strong majority of people across the political spectrum think that ocean protection is "very important," with results for this finding ranging from 65 to 85 per cent agreeing.

Canadians are not satisfied with the current level of ocean protection and support continued momentum.

  • Over 90 per cent of those polled support international momentum to set a more ambitious target for ocean protection.
  • 74 per cent say the current level of ocean protection is not enough.

Canadians recognize the benefits of MPAs for people and the planet.

  • Those who believe MPAs will benefit the economy outnumber those who think it will hurt the economy three to one.

Canadians believe that industrial development should not be allowed in protected ocean areas.

  • More than four out of five Canadians believe oil and gas, bottom trawling, and dumping should be excluded from MPAs.

Sabine Jessen, National Director, Ocean Program, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society says:
“As the world gears up to put more ambitious ocean protection targets in place to that  are based on science and address the severe decline in ocean health, Canadians across the political spectrum have indicated their deep concern about the current state of the ocean and their strong support for protecting at least 30% of the ocean in Canada.”
Bill Wareham, science projects manager, B.C. and Western Canada of David Suzuki Foundation says:
“From coast to coast to coast, Canadians strongly value our ocean for the natural ecosystem services and economic opportunities they provide. It is no surprise that nine out of 10 Canadians support further ocean protection. Canadians have clearly expressed their desire for leaders who will step forward as oceans champions to maintain effective conservation of our marine environment.”

Megan Leslie, president and CEO of WWF-Canada says:
“Over the past three years, as ocean protections have skyrocketed, we’ve seen how much can be accomplished when political will align with public support. And in the face of increasing pressures and threats, we must set our sights higher. This means creating more and better quality protected areas and making sure they’re in the right spot for wildlife and conservation. There’s little point in having isolated refuges for wildlife spread across the wide ocean, especially if industrial activities are still allowed there. What wildlife needs most is a connected network of high-quality protections in their most sensitive areas, allowing them to feed, mate and migrate freely.”

Stephanie Hewson of West Coast Environmental Law says:
“Canadians care deeply about our ocean, and want to sustain its abundance for future generations. This requires strong leadership and laws that ensure real and lasting protection.”

A full copy of the survey can be found here: www.wwf.ca/opinionmpa

About Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society: 
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s only nationwide charity dedicated solely to the protection of our public land, ocean, freshwater and ensuring our parks are managed to protect the nature within them. In the past 50+ years, we’ve played a lead role in protecting over half a million square kilometres – an area bigger than New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador put together! Our vision is to protect at least half of our public land, ocean, and freshwater so that future generations can experience Canada’s irreplaceable wilderness.

About David Suzuki Foundation:
The David Suzuki Foundation (davidsuzuki.org) is a leading Canadian environmental non-profit organization, collaborating with all people in Canada, including government and business, to conserve the environment and find solutions that will create a sustainable Canada through evidence-based research, public engagement and policy work. The Foundation operates in English and French, with offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. 

About World Wildlife Fund Canada:
WWF-Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important, so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife. For more information, visit wwf.ca.
About West Coast Environmental Law:
West Coast is a non-profit group of environmental law strategists and analysts dedicated to safeguarding the environment through law. We believe in a just and sustainable society where people are empowered to protect the environment and where environmental protection is law. '

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For further information
Stephanie Hewson, Staff Lawyer 
shewson@wcel.org, +1 604 684 7378 ext. 231

Description of the Poll:
The findings are based on a survey conducted with a sample of 1,665 adult Canadians from March 20 to April 4, 2019. A mixed-mode approach was used: 1,515 interviews were conducted with an online panel in the provinces, and 150 interviews were conducted by telephone in the Territories. The final sample was weighted to reflect population proportions per the 2016 Census.