These past three months I have been serving as the Natural Resource Policy Fellow (NRPF) with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) Marine Reserve Program. My position is focused on understanding the effects marine reserves may be having on coastal communities and visitors.
First, a little background on the marine reserves. Oregon’s five marine reserves were phased in from 2012 to 2016 and they currently make up 9% of the territorial sea. The territorial sea just means Oregon’s state waters, which are less than three nautical miles from the shore. There are no extractive activities or development allowed in the marine reserves. However, each marine reserve has adjacent Marine Protected Areas where some extractive activities are allowed. These marine reserves can be thought of as being in a trial phase. The Marine Reserves Program, including the management, scientific monitoring, outreach, community engagement, compliance, enforcement, and funding for the marine reserves, is up for evaluation beginning in the year 2022. The Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) will choose an Oregon public university to prepare a report on the Marine Reserves Program for the Oregon Legislative Assembly.
One of the primary marine reserve goals was to “avoid significant adverse social and economic impacts on ocean users and coastal communities”. This goal was set in 2008 in the Oregon Marine Reserve Policy Recommendations document developed by the Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC). This is where my position as an NRPF comes in. To determine if there have been any marine reserve impacts, we must compare socioeconomic data prior to marine reserve implementation and after marine reserve implementation. There are many different approaches we are using to achieve this goal both in house and with academic and professional collaborators. For example, we are comparing changes in socioeconomic indicators (e.g. per capita income) in communities near and far the reserves using census data. We are also looking at the potential economic loss to fishers with benthic species mapping, fish ticket data, and logbooks. We are also assessing whether there are any changes to visitor use at the shoreline adjacent to marine reserves with visitor surveys and observation counts. These are just a few of the many examples I could provide.
During this brief time that I have been a NRPF, I have already learned a great deal. I was even tasked with writing a literature review on stakeholder engagement and creating literature-based definitions for the terms stakeholder engagement (in general), informal stakeholder engagement, formal stakeholder engagement, stakeholder, and outreach. This literature review will be used to help evaluate the communications side of the Marine Reserves Program. I am looking forward to continuing to grow in this position while contributing to a project that I consider an important tool for natural resource management. Now, I will leave you with a picture of my dog (Moose – she’s from Alaska, hence the name) enjoying Newport’s South Beach.