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OR Coast to Benefit from Nat’l. Ocean Conservation Push

November 26, 2008

Yachats, OR – Oregon has some company in its quest to designate marine reserves, areas off the coast that are off-limits to fishing and recreational use to protect ocean habitat. This month, the first National System of Marine Protected Areas was launched to track and coordinate the 1700 protected ocean sites already designated around the country, allowing shared research and best management practices.

Oregon has narrowed its number of prospective sites to six that merit further study. Paul Engelmeyer of Yachats helped select them, as a member of the Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC). He says the national effort will help Oregon study its proposed locations, and foster cooperation along the West Coast.

"What's the real ecological driver here? It's the California Current and the Davidson Current, which really includes Oregon, Washington and California. And so, when you have these ecological systems that are really larger than state processes, you need a federal partnership."

OPAC is proposing that two of the Oregon sites begin as pilot projects. Engelmeyer explains it's a way to see what effects they'll have on fishing and tourism, and how well they work to protect fish and habitat.

"We could do better. This is one of the tools that we can pick up and use right now, and we will leave a legacy that is different than what's been given us. We've had restriction after restriction, whether it's endangered salmon stocks or depleted groundfish stocks, and it's time to attempt to reverse the trend."

Engelmeyer predicts that Oregon is still a year or two away from having its state marine reserve system finalized. Coastal communities want some assurance that the reserves won't negatively affect their economies. That's one reason they were encouraged to make their own nominations for the sites, Engelmeyer says.

Learn more about the new National System of Marine Protected Areas online, at mpa.gov.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR