Social Science

Visitors’ Environmental Concerns in Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary: An Offshore Marine Protected Area

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  Peer Reviewed

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Marine sanctuaries serve as popular destinations for ecotourism, natural resource exploration, and recreation across the US. While often positive, visitation in marine and coastal areas can cause ecological threats to these ecosystems. Increased visitation in marine environments has led to the need for management due to negative ecological and social impacts. Understanding environmental values, attitudes, and perceptions is important to the success of environmental protection. Using online surveys sent via Qualtrics asking questions regarding the users’ knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions of ocean resources, goods and services, this research focused on identifying user profiles and understanding their environmental perception associated with Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, an offshore marine protected area, and surrounding coastal Georgia. The results show that across multiple types of threats or phenomena, respondents are most concerned about threats to resources related to pollution. Furthermore, they support marine protection and are willing to adjust their consumption habits, such as recycling and energy use, to ensure the sustainable use of ocean resources. The inclusion of insights achieved through research about visitor perceptions into management decision making and planning can positively contribute to the success of environmental protection.