Oregon Shores Board Position on Marine Reserves
|Adopted by Oregon Shores board March 2001. Position and background paper prepared by Dr. Bayard H. McConnaughey for Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition, March 2001. |
Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition favors the establishment of a regional network of marine reserves and marine protected areas along the West Coast of North America in addition to other conservation measures. Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition will work towards the establishment of such a regional network and will strive to contribute to public education and understanding of the importance of marine biodiversity, marine habitat protection and sustainable fisheries and to the use of marine reserves as a tool in addressing these issues.
Marine protected areas are designated areas of the ocean which have regulations that prohibit some types of activities but not others (e.g. areas off limits to oil and gas drilling but where fishing is allowed). National Marine Sanctuaries are a type of marine protected area. Marine reserves are ocean areas where no extractive activities are permitted. All the resources, living and non living, are protected. Marine reserves have been used in the United States and other countries as a tool to protect and rebuild depleted fish populations, protect coral reefs and maintain biodiversity. The problem of restoring or maintaining sustainable fisheries is extremely complex. Each species presents special problems, and the social and economic ramifications of fisheries policies are staggering.
One thing has become very clear in recent years. The world’s fisheries are in deep trouble. Some of the best ones have collapsed and most of the others have experienced severe declines. Most good fisheries are in coastal waters because of the greater abundance of nutrients and greater diversity of habitats in such regions. These are also the areas most subject to impacts from the activities of people and natural events such as floods, earthquakes, changes in currents, water temperature, etc.
With an estimated 92.5% decline in population, the lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) is classified as vulnerable.One of the more comprehensive assessments of these problems is that of J.A. Musick and seventeen collaborators entitled, Marine, Estuarine and Diadromous Fish Stocks at Risk of Extinction in North America (Exclusive of Pacific Salmonids) in the journal Fisheries for November 2001. Eighty-two species are listed, and some indication of the status of each given. Of these, 22 are at risk of global extinction.
Dan Gotshall/AFS Fish Slide Catalog
If we treat the Pacific salmonids as a unit, there are 24 of these at-risk species along the West Coast of North America, including Oregon. Of these 18 are marine or estuarine, six are diadromous. Twenty two of these have suffered stock collapses or severe declines (great than 50 percent reduction, some more than 90 percent). Some “protected” species continue to be taken as unrecorded bycatch in fisheries devoted to other species. Advances in fish detection and fishing technology now make it possible to sweep large ocean areas clean of some species and have greatly increased bycatch.
The first marine reserves were established more than 20 years ago, but only in recent years has the idea come to the fore as a promising way to help restore and protect ocean life. Less than one percent of the oceans are now in reserves. Where they were carefully designed and monitored they have been shown to increase the biodiversity, the number and size of fishes and major invertebrates, and the total biomass within the reserves, as compared to comparable areas outside, and more importantly to seed other areas of the region through larval transport and out-migration. Reserves work best if they are large and if they are set up as regional networks to protect against catastrophe and provide stability for long term persistence of marine communities.
It may take many years for the benefits for some of the species to become evident due to low productivity (slow or late recruitment in many species). Of the 24 West Coast species listed, 19 have low to very low productivity, which means slow recovery. This is especially true of the larger more desired species. Diadromous fish, ground fish and rockfish present very special problems. Measures to protect individual species are often helpful, but less effective than marine reserves. Reserves are most successful if instituted before commercial species reach dangerously low levels.