We’re proud to announce a big win for our Marine Reserves!

Today, the Oregon legislature passed the Marine Reserve Bill (HB 4132), marking a historic investment in the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) Marine Reserve Program. The bi-partisan bill, chiefly sponsored by Representative David Gomberg, passed unanimously through the House, followed by a 26-3 vote in the Senate, with widespread support from the Coastal and Environmental Caucuses. The bill become law when Governor Kotek signed the bill on March 27, 2024.

What are Marine Reserves? 

Our five marine reserves are specially designated areas on our coast, forever protected from development and resource extraction. The system of reserves includes Cape Falcon, Cascade Head, Otter Rock, Cape Perpetua, and Redfish Rocks. As safe havens from human disturbance, these areas are biodiversity hotspots that support an array of marine life, including many threatened and endangered species.

These reserves also serve as “living laboratories,” where scientists study marine ecology, conduct fish stock assessments, and monitor the effects of climate change. The program also supports human dimensions research on the economic, social, and cultural dynamics of the Oregon coast, necessary for building more resilient communities. 

Over 10 years of research in our Marine Reserves has greatly increased our understanding of emerging ocean issues and threats to marine resources, such as ocean acidification and hypoxia, sea star wasting disease, microplastics, and noise pollution. Additionally, long-term ecological monitoring within the reserves informs marine resource management and allows the agency to assess the effectiveness of marine conservation.

Why does this new law matter? 

In addition to increased funding for the marine reserve program, the new law directs ODFW and DSL to develop an adaptive management and social monitoring program, to expand community and Tribal engagement, and increase the program’s capacity to respond more effectively to changing ocean conditions. Essentially, it has helped to modernize the program so that it can face upcoming challenges and engage more meaningfully with coastal communities and stakeholders.

The Marine Reserves Bill could not have passed without help from many coalition partners, dedicated Oregon Shores members, and CoastWatchers who spread the word, testified, and contacted their representatives in support of the bill. Thank you for taking action to strengthen our marine reserves.

Oregon Shores championed the bill as a founding member of the Oregon Ocean Alliance, which is a coalition of organizations working together to advance shared priorities aimed to advance the protection of Oregon’s ocean and coastal ecosystems. The new law marks the first major victory of the Alliance’s collective work. Additional founding members include Audubon Society of Lincoln City, Bird Alliance of Oregon, Coast Range Association, Environment Oregon, The Nature Conservancy (Oregon Chapter), Surfrider Foundation, and Oceana.