Oregon Legislature Boosts Investment in Marine Reserves

Oregon legislators have approved a landmark bill aimed at strengthening state marine reserves, plus providing a commitment to ocean conservation, stakeholder collaboration and sustainable management of marine resources.

The state Senate vote of 26-3 on March 6 came in the wake of the 10-year anniversary of Oregon’s marine reserves program, and a unanimous 55-0 vote in the House of Representatives earlier that week.

The legislation increased by $894,324 for the biennium ending June 30, 2025 for an adaptive management and social monitoring program to support marine reserves.

The package includes $479,324 for three permanent positions and related services and supplies, $100,000 for a Sea Grant-based fellow position to support new research, and $315,000 for contracts to conduct facilitation services, social research and marine policy research.

Oregon has nine marine protected areas adjacent to the marine reserves. Some fishing activities, including commercial fishing, are allowed, but vary by location, ODFW Marine Resources Program director Justin Ainsworth said.

Specific rules for each site are online at https://oregonmarinereserves.com/rules/.

ODFW is tasked to continue engagement with coastal communities, including commercial fishing fleets, to ensure marine reserve science is useful to communities and ODFW integrates community and fishermen knowledge into ongoing research and monitoring efforts, Ainsworth said.

“The bill supports new research to enhance the resilience of our oceans, coasts and communities in the face of ocean (climate) change, and three new positions that will contribute to new information and knowledge sharing with commercial fisheries,” he explained.

Rep. David Gomberg, a Democrat and chief sponsor of the bill, said in a statement that he was heartened to see his colleagues support legislation “that will strengthen the program, facilitate better engagement with tribal communities and our fisheries, and truly carry out ocean conservation the Oregon way.” 

Development and the taking of living marine resources is prohibited in marine reserves.

The marine reserves and adjacent marine protected areas are managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and comprise 9% of Oregon’s territorial sea. From north to south, they are located at Cape Falcon, Cascade Head, Otter Rock, Cape Perpetua and Redfish Rocks.

More than 30 species of marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles and fish populations that use marine waters off Oregon are listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.