The Lane County Commission today unanimously passed a resolution supporting a system of marine reserve and protected areas, with an endorsement of the Cape Perpetua site which was recommended for further evaluation by Governor Kulongoski's Ocean Policy Advisory Committee (OPAC). This potential marine reserve site is located near Heceta Head and extends north of Florence.
“We would like to thank the leadership of the Lane County Commission for supporting the Cape Perpetua site and the people of Florence and Yachats who nominated it,” said Susan Allen of the Pew Environment Group, who directs the Our Ocean coalition. “This decision confirms that support is building for each of the six sites that OPAC recommended for further evaluation.”
Last fall the Ocean Policy Advisory Council, appointed by Governor Kulongoski, reviewed 20 site proposals for marine protected areas and reserves from nine ecologically significant areas of the coast. It forwarded six sites total: two specific sites and four additional areas for further consideration. One of the four areas is Cape Perpetua.
“With the Hatfield Marine Science Center and the fishing fleet in Newport close in proximity, there is a great opportunity to conduct collaborative research and use this special place as a reference area for the enhanced understanding of the important land/sea connections, “said Gus Gates, Oregon policy coordinator with the Surfrider Foundation.
“One of the objectives of marine reserves as highlighted in the OPAC Policy Guidance Recommendations is to use the marine reserves as reference areas for conducting ongoing research and monitoring of reserve condition, effectiveness, and the effects of natural and human-induced stressors. Protecting Cape Perpetua will help sustain & protect the future viability of Oregon's marine ecosystem, its fisheries, and the economy,” Gates added.
Paul Englemeyer of Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary and the Audubon Society of Portland has advocated for a state network of marine reserves since 2002. He is encouraged by the Commission resolution and what lies ahead. “This affirms that the coastal communities and greater Lane County want to continue to work together to define a marine protected area and reserve,” he said. “I am confident stakeholders can find common ground to protect this important ecological area and we should move now so that our children and grandchildren can enjoy our magnificent ocean resource as much as we do.”
Scientific studies from 124 marine reserves around the world, including Washington and California, show that they often improve the size, diversity, and abundance of marine life living within. But these benefits can only be fully realized through a network of reserves. It's a combination of both ecosystem tools that offer the greatest suite of ecological benefits to marine life and the habitats they need for long-term health.
“It is surprising that Oregon is the only Pacific coast state without marine reserves, given our national reputation of leading on conservation issues,” said Allen. “Our Ocean's coastal and statewide members will continue to work in each community as the public process continues to unfold. Now that Oregon's fourth most populated county has agreed to this common sense, precautionary measure for sustaining our coastal waters, we see the momentum for a state system building.”