Coastal Community Teams say 'Yes' to OR Marine Reserves
ASTORIA, Ore. - Three packed public meetings on the Oregon coast this week confirmed that creating marine reserves to protect fish and habitat directly offshore is both a popular and controversial idea. All three community teams - in Astoria, Florence and Newport - voted in favor of marine reserves, and two of the teams recommended some protections for adjacent waters as well. However, some commercial fishermen are still concerned that marine reserves could restrict their livelihood.
Ben Enticknap, Pacific project manager with the conservation group Oceana, attended the meeting in Astoria on Wednesday. He says the evidence to the contrary is strong.
"In studies made around the world, the science shows that a marine reserve increases fish size, it increases abundance, it increases biological diversity and it protects marine habitats."
After 10 years of legislation, planning and debate, this week's progress toward a marine reserve system for Oregon is a big step, says Enticknap. California and Washington already have theirs in place.
"Over the years, these have been really hard conversations, and I'm impressed by all the people that came to the table to have these hard conversations. Ultimately, the state is on the right path for building a network of marine protected areas and marine reserves."
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife now takes the community team results and other research and makes its recommendations to the governor and legislature by Nov. 30. Enticknap points out that if all three areas approved by the community teams are protected, they will total about five percent of Oregon's near-shore coastal waters.