Experience & Knowledge 
of Marine Wildlife

from the Attitudes toward Marine Wildlife Survey


In this section, we examine results from our survey that pertain both to
respondents' interactions with marine wildlife and the coastal zone as well as their knowledge of local marine wildlife ecology. Survey questions related directly to people's individual experience and personal knowledge . Knowledge is typically related to attitudes and behavior and is known to vary according to educational attainment, as well as experience or interaction with wildlife. The baseline information we collected is valuable for educators interested in developing outreach materials for diverse clientele.

FOCUS: Experiences with marine wildlife

Most respondents had noticed marine animals, sea birds, or other types of marine animals while visiting the beach. In fact, only eight percent said they had not noticed any animals. Birds were the most common animal seen, primarily gulls and pelicans. Of those noticing animals over a third saw marine mammals, especially dolphins, seals and sea lions. About a fifth observed other marine animals, mostly crabs, lobsters, clams, or mussels. The figure below lists the percentages of people who saw particular marine animals during visits to the beach.


Animals Seen at Beach

Highlight: People received information about the coastal environment from a wide variety of sources, and the information sources varied across racial/ethnic groups. For example, 70% of Latinos listed TV as one source of information about the beach or ocean-related issues compared to only 42% of Whites. 

FOCUS: Knowledge of threatened or endangered species

Overall, respondents were moderately knowledgeable about threatened and endangered species. When asked which animals were either threatened with extinction or endangered, only a third identified the White Abalone, and even less (15%) identified the Least Tern. Forty-three percent incorrectly selected the White-sided Dolphin, and almost 18% incorrectly chose the Pacific Cormorant as threatened or endangered. The chart below shows successful idenitification of threatened or endangered species by respondents' race/ethnic subgroup. The results demonstrate a wide disparity in knowledge among different cultural groups.

Knowledge of Threatened Species


Highlight: An overwhelming majority of respondents, regardless of race/ethnicity, had little knowledge of the safety of eating certain local fish. In fact, almost three fourths of respondents had no knowledge that some local fish are unsafe to eat. 

Although African Americans were the group mostly likely to fish when visiting the beach (over 30% engaged in fishing), they had the least awareness of the safety of eating local fish. Over 85% were unaware that some fish are unsafe and no African American respondents correctly identified the specific types of fish that were unsafe to eat. While majorities of other racial/ethnic groups were also unaware of the safety of eating local fish (with 73% White, 70% Asian Pacific Islander, and 68% Latino), African Americans are at particular risk because they are more apt to be fishers.

POLICY IMPLICATIONS