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New nurseries for fish.

Byline: The Register-Guard

Little by little, Oregon is laying the groundwork for a network of marine reserves that can play a critical role in restoring depleted fish species off the state's coast.

On Tuesday, the state Senate approved a bill that, if approved by the House, would set in motion the establishment of three no- fishing marine reserves, one of them off Cape Perpetua just south of Yachats. The other two are located at Cascade Head near Lincoln City and at Cape Falcon south of Cannon Beach.

As The Register-Guard's Saul Hubbard reported Tuesday, Senate Bill 151 also would begin the process of creating seven "marine protected areas" near those three locations where some limited fishing and crabbing would be permitted but trawling would not.

Those less-restrictive areas, two of which would be near Cape Perpetua, total more than 50 square miles of territorial sea. Together with the three new reserves, the Senate approved full or partial protection for roughly 9 percent of Oregon's territorial sea. That's in addition to two previously approved small reserves already in existence - Redfish Rocks near Port Orford and Otter Rocks near Depoe Bay.

As was the case with Redfish Rocks and Otter Rocks, none of the fishing restrictions under the bill would go into effect until scientists collect the scientific data needed to ensure effective monitoring. The delay is frustrating for people eager to see the recovery of depleted fish species, but it is well advised. Accurate monitoring is essential to maintaining the legislative and public support necessary to continue the establishment of a strategic network off the Oregon Coast. Evidence that the reserves serve their intended functions would help answer skeptics who say the new reserves are not needed and would lock up the oceanic resources on which the economies of fishing and coastal communities depend.

Studies of marine reserves around the world have found significant increases in the population densities of marine life. A study last year showed the fish population in an area off the southern tip of Baja California rebounded by 463 percent 10 years after it became a marine reserve.

The proposed protected zones are located in Oregon's territorial sea - a three-mile strip off the state's coast that is home to hundreds of groundfish species, including rockfish, not to mention salmon - mainstays of Oregon's historic coastal fishery.

Four years ago, it looked as if efforts by conservation groups and like-minded state lawmakers to establish marine reserves would end up grounded on the shoals. Then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski and his staff encountered unexpectedly fierce opposition from fishing and coastal communities. It was no doubt tempting to abandon the politically radioactive project, but they persisted, scaling back the scope of the proposed reserves and improving communication between Salem and coastal leaders.

Opposition remains, but Gov. John Kitzhaber, who began the push for marine reserves during his first two terms, has worked hard to win the support of coastal leaders, businesses and commercial fishing groups.

The Legislature's establishment of ocean reserves won't silence the critics. But it will help ensure that Oregon leaves a legacy of healthy oceans for future generations.
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Title Annotation:Editorials
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1U9OR
Date:Feb 9, 2012
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