Welcome & Introduction

from the Attitudes toward Marine Wildlife Survey

The coastal zone of the Los Angeles region is one of the most populous and culturally diverse urban settings in the United States. It is also one of California's most valuable economic and environmental resources. People use the coastal zone for a variety of purposes: recreation, wildlife and people watching, fishing, and tourism. The coastal zone is also increasingly threatened by development and human encroachment into coastal habitat, as well as pollution from a variety of sources. Tremendous economic pressures to develop the few remaining parcels of open space fuel controversy among environmentalists, developers, and local government. As the regional population increases and becomes more diversified, conflicts over issues pertaining to human interactions with marine wildlife are becoming more commonplace. Increasing demands on recreational facilities such as beaches and boardwalks and ecological attractions such as tidepools, kelp forests, and coastal marshes are fostered by the cultural pursuits of local residents and visitors who use the coastal zone.

For example, despite regulations against the collection of tidepool animals from certain Southern California beaches, lack of enforcement personnel allows people to collect unchecked creatures like limpets, mussels, and sea stars for food. Also, controversy swirls around the negative impacts of seals and sea lions on fish catches despite widespread support of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), with pinnipeds consuming less than 10% of anglers' catches. The public, however, is often horrified to learn of legal pinneped shootings and killings authorized in a 1994 amendment to the MMPA when particular creatures are deemed a threat to fish catches. Humans and animals often have conflicting needs as our paths intersect in and near the coastal zones.

To gain a better understanding of relationships between Southern California's diverse population and attitudes toward marine animals in urban settings, SeaGrant funded a random telephone survey of 850 adult Los Angeles residents. We asked respondents about their attitudes, use, interactions and experiences, and knowledge of marine wildlife and the coastal zone. Specifically, we were interested in how distinct cultural groups differ in regard to their attitudes toward marine wildlife. The total survey sample was stratified by four race/ethnic groups (African-American, Asian-Pacific Islander, Latino, and White) to enable researchers to compare and contrast attitudes of culturally diverse respondents.

Highlight: Of the 850 respondents to the survey, 35% were White, 35% Latino, 12% African American, and 10% Asian-Pacific Islander. 

Highlights presents survey results and their implications for public policy and future research. These should be of particular interest to museums, aquariums, and educators who develop environmental education and outreach materials for diverse public audiences. The contents of the series will be electronically mailed periodically over a period of four months, starting with this introductory issue. The complete collection is available here at the USC SeaGrant website.


#1 - Welcome and Introduction
#2 - Beach Use and Cultural Diversity
#3 - Attitudes toward Marine Wildlife
#4 - Experience and Knowledge of Marine Wildlife
#5 - Understanding Tolerance and Stigma Relating to Animal Practices


USC Sea Grant's mission is to fund research of the coastal regional and disseminate the results to educators, policy makers, and the public. USC Sea Grant maintains a specific thematic focus on the Urban Ocean. USC Sea Grant is part of a national network of research institutions funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) . The complete report on the results of this research, Attitudes toward Marine Wildlife among Residents of Southern California's Urban Coastal Zone (USCSG-TR-01-2001) , is available for purchase through the USC Sea Grant website.

We are excited to share these findings with you. If you have questions or would like further information, please contact us.