Poll Shows That A Vast Majority In Province Support Marine Protected Areas

Conserving BC’s marine environment for a strong economy draws 93% support

Woman working at a small-scale fishery in British Columbia, Canada.
British Columbians understand that thriving coastal communities depend on small-scale fisheries for sustaining local livelihoods, ensuring food security, maintaining ties to the sea, preserving cultural identity, and bolstering coastal economies. They also understand that industrial-scale commercial fisheries stand in the way of a prosperous coast. Photo credit: Chelsey Ellis

British Columbians are famously contrarian, disagreeing about many things. But one thing that most of us seem to agree on is the need to protect our marine environment.

A recent province-wide survey found that 93% of British Columbians view marine conservation as the top priority for the future of the BC coastal economy. Other areas seen as important for the economic future of the BC coast include “renewable energy” (86%), “outdoor recreation” (82%), “small-scale community fisheries” (83%), and “ecotourism” (79%). At the bottom of the list is “deep sea mining” (44%).

According to pollster Mario Canseco, there are usually major differences in opinions on environmental protection “depending on the federal political allegiances of respondents.” With regard to marine conservation, he says, “This is not the case.”

Canseco’s claim is supported by his data. Over 9 in 10 of each federal political party’s supporters identified marine conservation as the top priority for the economic future of the BC coast: Conservatives (93%), Liberals (91%), NDP (95%), Green (94%), and PPC (94%).

In 2013, the Raw Spirit was imported to Canada from Norway. Its arrival was part of a new wave of trawling in British Columbia, with the introduction of factory trawlers that can catch larger quantities of fish at a faster rate. Photo credit: Dennis J. Dubinsky / ShipSpotting

Asked about “potential threats to the BC coast and coastal communities,” 92% point to “declining fish stocks” as their top concern. Second on the list is “open-net fish farms” (90%), followed by “bottom trawling” (90%), and climate change (84%). People were significantly less concerned about “excessive government restrictions on fishing” (65%).

Bottom trawls have the most detrimental impact on populations, communities, and seafloor habitats. Bottom trawling results in the removal and killing of various species, leaving a lasting effect on the food web that takes decades to recover. Photo credit: Brain Skerry / National Geographic

The poll found that British Columbians have the most confidence in scientists (77%) and environmental groups (67%) as sources of information on marine issues. A majority also trusted Fisheries and Oceans Canada (61%), First Nations (54%), the provincial government (54%), and whale watching guides (51%).

“British Columbians have the least confidence in the fishing industry (39%), the salmon farming industry (32%), and fishing companies like Jimmy Pattison’s Canfisco (25%).”

The poll, released Nov. 22, is based on a province-wide online survey of 1,603 British Columbians conducted from October 31 through November 8, 2023. According to Research Co., the margin of error is ±2.4% 19 times out of 20.

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