The Oregon House today passed Senate Bill 1510, making Oregon’s first network of marine reserves and marine protected areas (MPAs) off the Oregon coast. The bill calls on state agencies, the State Fish and Wildlife Commission, and State Land Board to implement the 2011 Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) recommendations for marine reserves and adjacent MPAs at Cape Falcon, Cascade Head and Cape Perpetua.
“Today’s visionary action by the Oregon legislature will help protect the health and biodiversity of the Pacific Ocean ecosystem”, stated Ben Enticknap, Pacific project manager with Oceana. “After a decade of process, Oregon is finally designating a limited network of marine reserves and protected areas designed to protect ocean habitats and wildlife.”
The three new marine reserves and MPAs add 109 square miles (70,000 acres) to the already designated 9 square miles of area at Redfish Rocks and Otter Rock. All areas combined total less than 10 percent of Oregon’s Territorial Sea; leaving the vast majority of Oregon’s Pacific waters open to fishing and development. The marine reserves will be ‘no-take’ and the MPAs will allow activities like fishing for Dungeness crab and salmon, while prohibiting bottom trawling, the harvest of forage fish, and offshore development.
“The science of marine reserves speaks for itself”, says Enticknap, “Studies of reserves from around the world demonstrate that they increase the size, abundance and diversity of marine life.”
Marine reserves have positive ecological benefits inside and outside of their protective boundaries, as fish and wildlife populations increase and then spill over into adjacent areas. An ecologically significant network of marine reserves and protected areas interspersed throughout the full coast would make the entire nearshore ecosystem more healthy and resilient to increasing pressures from overfishing, habitat damage, and changing ocean conditions from global warming and ocean acidification.
“This is a great first step in protecting sensitive and important ecological areas off our coasts,” said Whit Sheard, Pacific counsel and senior advisor with Oceana. “This bill represents some difficult compromises, but it is a critical step forward for the long-term management of our publicly held ocean resources.”
Oceana is specifically concerned for three species of fish living in Oregon’s three mile wide Territorial Sea that have been declared “overfished” and the 32 threatened and endangered species/ distinct populations that feed and migrate off the Oregon coast, such as salmon, smelt, humpback whales and seabirds like the marbled murrelet. While agency rulemaking for the reserves will happen this summer, fishing prohibitions won’t take effect for two years, while ODFW collects baseline scientific data on the areas. Oceana will continue to work with regional managers and local communities to ensure the future well-being of the Pacific Ocean off Oregon and its wildlife.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 500,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.