House approves establishment of marine reserves

GRANTS PASS — The Oregon House has approved establishment of Oregon's first two marine reserves, and funding to keep discussions going on creation of four others.

The unanimous vote Thursday was a far cry from the bitter battles eight years ago when then-Gov. John Kitzhaber first proposed establishment of a network of marine conservation areas to offset damages from overfishing.

Rep. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, said the fact that the two reserves are small, primarily for research, and can be dissolved if funding for research dries up, helped swing fishermen and coastal groups that had been afraid their livelihoods were threatened.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate, taps $1 million from damages awarded over the New Carissa shipwreck to implement the recommendations of the Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council, which spent eight months developing consensus.

HB3013 creates one marine reserve, where no fishing or mining would be allowed, at Otter Rock off Depot Bay and another at Redfish Rocks off Port Orford. A larger marine protected area, where some fishing may be allowed, would be created at Redfish Rocks. It also provides for research and enforcement.

Scientists have increasingly advised that overfishing is dangerously depleting fish populations around the world, making it important to protect underwater habitats as breeding grounds and sanctuaries for fish as well as to maintain healthy ecosystems.

At one point Gov. Kulongoski considered proposing the entire Oregon Coast out to the three-mile state territorial limit, as marine reserve, but instead put the decision in the hands of the Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council.

Four areas still under discussion are off Cape Arago, Cape Falcon, Cape Perpetua and Cascade Head.

"You will still see a robust discussion moving forward on those four areas," said Susan Allen, director of the conservation group Our Ocean.

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