Your recent edition (#21, March 13, 2002) raised a number of issues about a public opinion poll conducted and released in February 2002 by five American and Canadian conservation organizations. On behalf of those organizations, I want to offer these comments.
The primary reason we conducted this poll was to gauge public awareness about important marine resource issues, including fully protected areas. We
wanted to gain an accurate baseline assessment of regional public opinion regarding fully protected areas. The questionnaire defined these areas very
explicitly as: "In a fully protected area, all extractive activities are prohibited, including oil drilling, mining and all commercial and recreational fishing." The questionnaire never referred to these areas as marine protected areas, but as fully protected areas. When the poll used the figure of less than 1% of ocean waters, it referred specifically to the percentage of ocean waters that is fully protected.
We recognize several federally designated areas as MPAs, such as the groundfish closed areas, the whale critical habitat areas and Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, but they are not fully protected areas as defined throughout the poll. Consequently, while parts of the Gulf of Maine are protected from some discrete activities, those areas still experience habitat disturbance or fish and invertebrate mortality from other activities.
We believe that fully protected areas could play a very important role as one of a number of tools to help recover and sustain the Gulf of Maine ecosystem. The public appears to agree.
The full poll questionnaire will be posted on March 27, 2002 on CLF's website at www.clf.org. We urge anyone interested in the poll to read it in its entirety. We also attach a memo from our polling firm, Edge Research, which responds to FishNet/USA's specific criticisms of the poll's methodology.
Sarah Clark Stuart
Marine Policy Consultant to the Conservation Law Foundation