Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Sailing Community and the Marine Environment - Survey Results

In March 2012 Sea-Changers conducted an online survey aimed at the sailing public. One of Sea-Changers core audiences is sailors and we wanted to understand how far this audience cares about the marine environment and explore their concerns about marine conservation issues. The results have been fascinating and provide useful insights and pointers as to the views of the sailing community.

About the survey and sample

We conducted an online survey aimed at the sailing public. We distributed the link as widely as possible using social media and posting the link to the survey on many different and relevant sites. We asked our existing followers to pass the link on to those in their networks who sail. Our final sample size was 72 people. We recognise that this is not statistically robust and the self-selected audience means that sailors with an interest in marine conservation issues were far more likely to respond to the survey. Nevertheless, we believe that the findings have provided useful insights and pointers as to the views of the sailing community.

Marine Conservation Concerns
When asked how concerned they are about marine conservation issues, over half (55%) of the sailors who took part in this survey described themselves as ‘very concerned’. Almost all survey respondents were ‘very or quite concerned’ (97%), as Figure 1 shows. 

Figure 1: How concerned are you about marine conservation issues?

Concerns appear to have been growing over the last 5 years. When asked whether they are more concerned, less concerned or concerned to about the same degree as was the case 5 years ago, 3 in 5 (65%) of our survey respondents said they were more concerned. Just over a third said their concerns were about the same and no-one said they were less concerned.

This may be due to the fact that a significant proportion of the sailors we heard from are noticing more marine pollution and litter in recent years. As Figure 2 shows 67% of respondents agreed that this was the case and over 1 in 4 (26%) agreed strongly.

Figure 2: How far do you agree or disagree with the following statement:
“I have noticed more pollution and litter in the seas in recent years?”

We wanted to understand which marine conservation issues are considered to be a serious problem by sailors. As Figure 3 shows, the issue seen as the most serious problem is over-fishing with 95% of survey respondents saying this issue is a very serious or quite serious problem.

It is clear that sailors associate the most serious issues with those caused by industry and commerce, rather than with their leisure activities, nevertheless 66% of sailors in our survey see marine litter and waste from leisure boats as a very or quite serious problem and 45% also see damage to the sea bed from anchors as a problem for the marine environment.

Figure 3: How serious a problem do you consider the following
marine conservation issues to be?

Impacts of Sailing
When sailors were asked to identify what they consider to be the main environmental impacts of sailing, half (50%) identified marine litter as a main impact. Oil leaks or spills, sewage from boats and pollution from boat cleaning and maintenance were each identified as key impacts by nearly 2 in 5 sailors in our survey (38%-39%). Figure 4 shows the results for this question in full.

Figure 4: Which of the following do you consider to be the main environmental impacts with regard to sailing?  

Sailors Taking Responsibility 
Sailors who answered the Sea-Changers survey tend to agree that they are doing all they can to minimise their environmental impact, in fact 100% of our sample agreed that this was the case with 51% agreeing strongly. And similarly, 96% disagreed with the statement “As long as I can enjoy my sailing I’m not too concerned about marine conservation.”

As Figure 5 shows, however, our sample were not so convinced that the wider sailing community is as caring or conscious about the marine environment – 37% agreed or agreed strongly with the statement “Most sailors don’t think much about their environmental impact.”

Figure 5: How far do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

Opportunities for Sailing Suppliers
Sailors who answered our survey are keen to support businesses that are giving something back to themarine environment.  As Figure 6 shows 91% of respondents agreed or agreed strongly that they would actively choose sailing suppliers and services if they work to protect the marine environment.

Since Sea-Changers* has been set up specifically to provide an easy mechanism for businesses serving the marine leisure market to give something back to marine conservation, it appears that working with Sea-Changers will certainly be commercially attractive.

Figure 6: How far do you agree or disagree with the following statement:
“I would actively choose sailing suppliers and services if they work to protect the marine environment?”

Give us your views. Does your experience when sailing echo what we found in our survey? Do you agree with the findings?

*Sea-Changers is a new charity with the mission of raising significant additional funds for marine conservation charities and projects in the UK. We exist in order to harness the energy, good will and resources of those who love the sea. Sea-Changers is working to develop links with a wide range of specialist retail partners that serve the cruising, diving, sailing and surfing community. If you are interested in finding out more about working with Sea-Changers email: info@sea-changers.org.uk

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