People Underestimate
Their Damage To
Our Oceans

MONTEREY, Calif. (Reuters) - Most Americans believe healthy oceans are key to human survival, but far fewer realize that individuals, not industry, pose the biggest environmental threat to the seas, according to a poll released on Tuesday.
The poll, commissioned by a consortium of museums, aquariums and zoos that together form The Ocean Project, asked 1,500 U.S. adults about how the Earth's oceans function and what environmental risks they face.
While 92 percent of the poll respondents said oceans were critical to maintaining a habitable planet, a full 66 percent mistakenly thought industrial waste was the main threat to the ocean environment.
Instead, small-scale runoff from yards, roads and farms is the primary cause of ocean pollution today -- a fact known by only 14 percent of the poll respondents.
``An estimated 15 times more oil than the Exxon Valdez spill finds its way into the sea annually from street runoff and individual dumping into municipal storm drains,'' the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the Ocean Project's sponsors, said in a news release. The Exxon Valdez spilled about 35,000 tons of oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989.
The Ocean Project said it would use the poll results to help design a series of major programs and exhibits designed to boost public awareness of the threats to the oceans' health.
``We now have a good understanding of where we need to go,'' said Bill Mott, the project's director. ``People have a fundamental sense that oceans are important and they play an integral role in the balance of nature. The next steps will be to show people how oceans relate to human survival and what each of us can do to protect them for the future.''
The poll was conducted July 24-Aug. 8 and had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.


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