Reserve Matters

I’m pleased that Portland Monthly took up the issue of wave energy (The Next Wave, November 2010), and the work that Oregonians have undertaken to plan for a sustainable, productive ocean. But the article missed the larger issue by failing to highlight the state’s current efforts to create a network of marine reserves in our coastal waters, a key ingredient of marine spatial planning. While it’s important to plan for a variety of uses, it’s also critical that we set aside protected areas where marine life can thrive without human interference.

After more than eight years of public process, Oregon is currently evaluating the protection of up to 6.5 percent of nearshore waters as marine reserves and multiple-use protected areas. That will leave the vast majority of coastal waters open for fishing and other uses while helping to secure the future productivity of Oregon’s oceans. This effort has the potential to yield the foundation for coastal and marine spatial planning in the state as well as a more effective way of implementing natural resource policy.

From climate change to wave energy, the pressures on marine systems are growing each year. In order to ensure our marine life and habitats remain healthy, we have to protect a few key areas where plants and animals can achieve their full natural diversity and create an ecological savings account that we can depend on into the future. Scientific studies show that a well-designed network of marine reserves can produce more numerous, bigger, and more prolific fish, and more resilient ecosystems.

Representatives like myself from the science, conservation, fishing, business, and recreation communities have weighed in to ensure that Oregon’s marine-reserve plans consider local needs. I hope our state recognizes that a strong system of marine reserves and protected areas is one of the best tools we have to protect our natural capital.

—Dr. Brian Tissot, PhD
Professor, School of Earth and Environmental Science,
Washington State University Vancouver,
Cascade Head Community
Team member