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This report was posted on the Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion (MARMAM) on Wednesday 23rd June 1999.

Study reveals American perceptions of Marine Mammals

Press release issued June 21, 1999:

Most Americans Favor Preservation Over Commercial Exploitation

WASHINGTON - The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) today released findings of a nationwide study representing the first comprehensive overview of how Americans view marine mammals. Overall, the study, conducted by Stephen R. Kellert of Yale University's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, indicates that Americans: oppose commercial whaling; support the protection of marine mammals over commercial fishing interests; have serious concerns about captive display of marine mammals in zoos and aquariums; support the limitation of various economic activities in the ocean that harm marine mammals; and support the various goals of the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act as well as the scientific and policy oversight responsibilities of the Marine Mammal Commission.

The Kellert Study surveyed 1,000 residents throughout the United States based on: age; education; place of residence; gender; knowledge of marine mammals; visits to zoos or aquariums; and membership in an environmental organization, among other things. The study holds a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.

"This study confirms what we at The Humane Society of the United States have long known: Americans are concerned about marine wildlife and want to ensure its preservation," said Dr. John Grandy, senior vice president of wildlife protection at The HSUS. "These findings clearly indicate that marine mammals possess considerable support among the majority of Americans today."

Specific conclusions from the report include:

Commercial Whaling

Widespread opposition is expressed among most Americans (70%) toward commercial whaling under any circumstance. Alaskan residents, the elderly, those less educated, those who know less about marine mammal issues, those who fish and those without memberships to environmental organizations are generally less opposed to killing whales. Seventy percent of Americans morally object to killing whales and do not favor harvesting whales because of their presumed intelligence.

Protection of Marine Mammals Over Commercial Fishing Interests

Ninety percent of Americans support protection of marine mammals over commercial fishing interests, even if it results in higher consumer prices. Alaskan residents, the elderly, those less educated, those who know less about marine mammal issues and those who fish are slightly less supportive of marine mammal protection

The most preferred strategies for mitigating conflicts between marine mammals and commercial fishing are non-lethal as opposed to lethal means, including relocation of marine mammals and/or commercial fishing operations.

Captive Display of Marine Mammals in Zoos or Aquariums

Ninety percent of Americans object to captive display of marine mammals in zoos and aquariums unless the animals are well cared for, and demonstrate results in education and scientific benefits.

Nearly 90 percent support government restrictions on exporting marine mammals to countries with captive facilities that do not meet American educational and/or treatment standards.

More than 80 percent object to interfering with the behavior of whales for whale watching.

Nearly 75 percent endorse whale watchers paying a small fee to help pay the costs of whale conservation and management.

Economic Ocean Activities Harmful to Marine Mammals

Americans support limiting various economic development activities in the ocean that harm marine mammals, including commercial shipping (75%), disposing wastes (80%), chemical pollution (80%), and oil/gas extraction and transport (80%). Alaskans generally object less than non-Alaskans to oil/gas development, although a majority of Alaskans oppose this activity if it injures or kills marine mammals.

Government Programs and International Relations

Most Americans (90%) strongly support various goals of the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, as well as maintaining the scientific and policy oversight responsibilities of the Marine Mammal Commission, a non-partisan advisory body established under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Eighty percent strongly support imposing trade penalties or denying access to resources in American waters of nations that violate American or international marine mammal protection laws and agreements.

Most Americans (70%) favor restricting various activities within marine sanctuaries to protect marine mammals and other marine life.

The Kellert Study indicates that marine mammals, especially whales, and to a somewhat lesser extent seals and sea lions, enjoy public interest and concern for their welfare and conservation. Most Americans consistently indicate a desire to modify or alter human activities in the marine environment to protect marine mammals, even if it necessitates sacrifice on society's part.

The HSUS is the nation's largest animal protection organization with more than seven million members and constituents. For more information on marine wildlife, visit us on the Internet at hsus.org.

Naomi A. Rose, Ph.D.
Marine Mammal Scientist
The Humane Society of the United States
2100 L Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037
ph: 301/258-3048
fax: 301/258-3080
email: nrose@hsus.org
http://www.hsus.org


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