In 2003, a survey was conducted in two major Scottish cities in order to investigate current perceptions of the public towards cetaceans and their conservation. Public concern about cetacean conservation was high. Overall the issues considered to be the greatest threats to cetacean populations were related to pollution: oil spills, and chemical and sewage pollution (serious threat: 68, 65, and 63%, respectively). Concern was also high regarding the depletion of cetacean prey from over-fishing, entanglement in fishing gear, marine litter and global warming, (serious threat: 54, 51, 44, and 43%, respectively). Conservation issues that are of specific concern to Scottish waters were also noted: military activities, fish farming and oil exploration. Least concern was expressed about whale-watching (not a threat: 48%). Women and older respondents expressed significantly higher levels of concern about cetacean conservation. Generally, the opinions of the public were similar to those of a test group of marine conservation professionals and advocates, although the public tended to show slightly greater levels of concern for most issues. However, the public expressed significantly higher levels of concern over oil spills, sewage pollution and chemical pollution than did marine conservation professionals/advocates. Most participants (60%) were unsure as to whether there was currently sufficient legal protection for cetaceans in Scotland, but eight out of ten respondents thought that there should be legislation specifically for cetacean conservation. Moreover, 40% stated that the proposal of a law specifically for the protection of cetaceans would make them view a political party or politician more favourably. Eighty percent of those interviewed were in favour of seeing more marine environmental education, including information on cetaceans and their environment, in the Scottish school curriculum.
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