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Giving Fish a Break: Marine Reserves for OR?

January 16, 2008

Corvallis, OR – Community leaders from up and down the Oregon coast are getting the chance to weigh in on controversial proposals for establishment of "marine reserves" off the state's shores.

The reserves would give fish and other ocean species a chance to grow and reproduce without the risk of nets, hooks, or divers. Biologists and conservation groups say such protected zones are needed to preserve valuable marine species, although some fishing interests regard them as ways to put further restrictions on their already hard-pressed livelihoods.

Dr. Mark Hixon, a marine biologist at Oregon State University and chair of the national Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee, says restricting fishing in some areas makes common sense, as well as scientific sense.

"One of the biggest factors is that large fish have been shown to be the best spawners for replenishing our fish populations. But there's an indication that the large fish are the first to be depleted, because our fishing gear selects large fish."

Hixon says one species that would benefit from protected habitat is the black rockfish, the fish caught most often by recreational anglers on the Oregon coast.

"Because they're not easily managed, it's important to ensure that we have some of these older fish set aside in the population, as a sort-of population insurance."

Washington and California already have marine reserves in place. Representatives of Oregon's coastal towns meet with the governor's chief of staff, Chip Terhune, this week in a series of ten sessions starting today in Astoria and working south to North Bend by Friday.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR