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    Monday, December 17, 2018-11:32:29A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Our islands, our ocean

MANY Micronesians believe that their marine environment is under threat from human activities so they support action that will protect the region’s marine environment.

But many also believe that keeping the environment clean is the government’s responsibility.

A study conducted by an international team of researchers at Dalhousie University in Canada involved over 32,000 people in 21 countries, and provides one of the first systematic comparisons of public perceptions of marine threats and protection around the world.

According to the study, 70 percent of respondents believe that the marine environment is under threat from human activities, and 45 percent believe the threat is high or very high.

The study also found that over 70 percent of respondents support marine protected areas or MPAs — regions established to protect natural resources in the ocean.

California Sea Grant extension specialist Jennifer O’Leary of the University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography said: “Anytime we are introducing protection measures, we’re asking people to change their behavior. And we know from behavioral research that focusing on what people already think is important and can make changes easier for people to accept.”

The Dalhousie University study found several areas of disagreement between public perceptions and scientific assessments. But the public in general got the big threats right: fishing, habitat change, pollution, biodiversity loss, climate change.

Sapan residents interviewed by this writer said pollution is the greatest environmental threat. But habitat loss and climate change ranked higher in low-lying island countries such as Kiribati and the Marshalls.

Researchers also noted that while the public shows strong support for protection of marine areas, rules that govern these areas vary widely in practice.

Some local residents said a sense of responsibility and ownership for the islands that they call home has yet to be “discovered” by some people.