Today the Oregon Senate passed Senate Bill 1510, which brings Oregon’s first network of marine reserves and marine protected areas off the Oregon coast one step closer to implementation.
An ecologically significant network of marine reserves and protected areas would make the entire Oregon near-shore ecosystem more healthy and resilient to increasing pressures from overfishing, habitat damage, and changing ocean conditions from global warming and ocean acidification.
The bill will now have to pass the House before heading to the Governor’s desk for signing. If it does, Oregon’s marine reserve and protected area sites will total 118 square miles and make up less than 10 percent of the Pacific Ocean waters in the state’s jurisdiction. (See a map here.) We see this as a great start, but we hope Oregon will continue to identify all of its important ecological areas and ultimately build an ecologically significant network of protected areas and reserves for the full coast.
The ocean is so enormous it often seems limitless — limitless in size, limitless in the amount we harvest, limitless in the amount of pollution it can withstand. But humans are negatively impacting marine ecosystems through overfishing, habitat destruction and pollution.
We may be at a tipping point, but there is good news. Scientists have demonstrated that systems of marine protected areas and marine reserves protect unique habitats, increase biological diversity and the size and abundance of marine life. By designing reserves and protected areas to protect places with high productivity, these areas can then serve as nurseries and safeguards for struggling species. As an area rebounds, the bounty overflows beyond the protected areas and replenishes adjacent waters.
Oceana has been participating in the Oregon marine reserve process for over six years and helped design the original marine reserve proposals submitted to Oregon’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council in 2008, which included the three sites in SB 1510 at Cape Falcon, Cascade Head and Cape Perpetua. These three sites were ultimately carefully negotiated and championed by diverse groups of stakeholders participating on coastal community teams formed in response to the passage of House Bill 3013 in 2009. We are cautiously optimistic that the bill will clear the House and Oregon will be on its way to its first system of marine reserves and protected areas.