NORTH BEND -- Cape Arago probably won't see a marine reserve anytime soon.

Wednesday night, after listening to about 50 people speak over the course of three hours, Oregon International Port of Coos Bay commissioners said they would recommend to Oregon's Ocean Policy Advisory Committee that a reserve not be established there. Their recommendation culminates a nearly two-year review.

The commission also will recommend that the region revisit the possibility of establishing a reserve after state scientists conduct studies on existing marine reserves in other places along the coast.

Tonight will 'culminate in an action that won't make everybody happy, but leaves it open to revisit this in the future," said Commissioner Caddy McKeown.

Other commissioners expressed similar viewpoints.

More than 100 people gathered at the community center to voice their concerns and hear the decision Wednesday night. Scientists, politicians, fishermen and others all threw in their two cents.

'We understand this may be an emotional issue to people on both sides," the port's interim chief operating officer, David Koch, said before commenting began. 'Please avoid emotional outbursts."

Twenty-eight people spoke in support of a reserve; 19 were against and two were neither for or against.

Many of the commenters were involved in the marine reserve review process and stressed the importance of having better scientific data on the environmental impact of such a plan. Those in favor of a reserve said the review committee did not have access to the best scientific data, and if they had, the decision may have been different. Those opposed to a reserve said scientists have not pinpointed a specific reason for -- or benefit to -- having a reserve.

'We haven't closed the door'

There was disagreement among commenters about the economic impact a reserve might have on the local economy. Some said a reserve -- which would close off an area of ocean from all commercial or private fishing and other human activity -- would stifle local fishing and recreation industries. Others said the benefits to ocean health and scientific study would outweigh the small economic impact. Many agreed that a more complete study of the economic impact would better inform the process.

'What struck a chord with me tonight is we could all benefit from more scientific information," Commissioner Dan Smith said. 'We haven't closed the door."

How we got here

The marine reserve review process began in March 2008, when then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski directed 'state agencies to protect coastal communities in siting marine reserves and wave energy projects." At that time, the Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council began establishing a process to review marine reserve proposals along Oregon's coast.

In May 2009, the port established the Port Marine Reserve Recommendation Committee, made up of community stakeholders and local scientists, to determine the need for a reserve by reviewing the latest science and determining the level of economic impact on the local community.

The committee reviewed three proposed reserve sites and determined in March 2011 -- by a two-thirds majority vote -- that no marine reserve should be established.

Five reserves have already been established.

Supporters of the marine reserve system say it is important to have several reserves along the coast, without large gaps, to ensure equal benefits and accurate studies.

'This is beyond a local issue," commenter Minda Stiles of Portland said. 'The seas are all connected and so are we."

However, those against establishing a reserve say the area off Coos Bay is well-protected already, and fish stocks are healthy.

State biologists will study these 'pilot reserves" in the coming years to determine the environmental impact of the untouched areas on fish populations. When more scientific information is available, the port plans to revisit the idea.

The question is: When will this happen?

'We should step back and let the state take over," McKeown said. When state scientists and officials decide enough data has been collected, the port will take another look, she added.

McKeown warned Coos County to stay alert to this process, though, lest the process happen without them.

Reporter Jessie Higgins can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or jhiggins@theworldlink.com.

(11) comments

recfisher
recfisher

One of the "problems" is who sits on the commissions that dictate allowable catch. These commissions are overflowing with industry reps whose livelihood depends on allowable catch. It's the fox tending to the hen house scenario. Another "problem" is how species are managed based on the flawed MSY (maximum sustainable yield). Currently, fishery managers set a limit and industry catches until there is a problem or a crisis. Then drastic measures are put in place like the RCA's or other closures.

CB Lifer
CB Lifer

HHmmm....if people are so concerned about protecting the fish, then why not QUIT protecting the seals? They are the ones who are in massive numbers, eating massive amounts of fish, because the environmentalist decided to protect them. There ARE laws of nature that take care of this type of thing, so why not let them? Human beings step in and destroy the natural way of things. Now, there are not enough fish, not because of mans over fishing, but over protecting. Leave 'em alone.

Konajack
Konajack

You can't expect the Port of Coos Bay to approve anything that doesn't involve resource extraction and industrial degradation.

reads the news
reads the news

The reserve would just be more of a haven for the fish eating swarm of seals and sea lions on the rocks off of Arago. They already rule the roost, so what is the point?

tsunami
tsunami

no mooncent, the excitement is when the elk get on your "well traveled highway from a fenced in preserve". that preserve is fenced but does not contain wildlife what so ever.

m00npenny
m00npenny

Just an Observer: Actually Elk are in high numbers. If you are pointing to the fact that there is no other Elk Reserve on highway 38 that large, then yes you are correct. The excitement that the elk are doing well within a fenced-in reserve on a well traveled highway in Oregon is about as successful as the herd of cattle next to them, big deal.

m00npenny
m00npenny

Cape Arago doesn't need a marine reserve. There really isn't a purpose for environmentalists. We have laws and private agencies that oversee our countries lands. Simply picking a puddle of water out of a vast ocean to protect, is pointless. All they have left to demand is power, its time the environmentalists are "put out to pasture".

realitybites
realitybites

The state process bagan in October 2000. Since then, marine reserve advocates haven't identified a single problem in state waters that reserves would help to fix. Here, advocates also agreed there was no problem, by consensus with opponents. At the end they went Chicken Little, saying "trophic cascade" could happen if we don't quit fishing. Guess they should start by killing all the pinnipeds at Cape Arago, who fish more days and kill more fish every year than we do. Scientists? No, activists!!

deceptions
deceptions

again with the shortsighted liberal ideology.

What would this reserve accomplish? A haven for fish? If you believe that then you have absolutely no idea how the ocean works. Fish travel massive distances. The biggest threat to our fish population is Japan. A marine reserve would do nothing for wildlife as a whole.

I'm a huge fan of conservationism, but not all ideas are good ones. Thank god the port agrees.

Kay
Kay

Ask the Port of Coos Bay, sir.

Just An Observer
Just An Observer

The concept of reserves, when properly implemented, works just fine. Want to see proof of that? Take a drive on 38 and see the elk in their protected reserve. Do you see that many elk anywhere else?

The difference between the elk and the fish is that we depend on commercial harvesting of fish. That makes having a reserve even more important. We want lots of fish for our fishermen to catch and for us to eat! Port Orford got all parties to the table to come up with a reserve. Why not here?

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