Report: Prices and online visibility of coastal tour operators vary widely


By Rick Cooper

Man holding salmon

In Astoria, Gold Beach, and Lincoln City, more salmon charter businesses were found in 2018; however, in Brookings, Newport, and Tillamook, fewer businesses were recorded in 2018. (Photo by Susan Dimock)

The prices and online presence of companies offering guided tours on the Oregon coast vary widely, according to the author of a new report.

Miles Phillips, a coastal tourism specialist with Oregon Sea Grant and the Oregon State University Extension Service, found that their online presence ranged from prominent to nonexistent.

“Many guides are not effectively marketing themselves online,” said Phillips, who hired two interns – through Oregon Sea Grant’s Summer Scholars program – to analyze prices and Google search rankings for coastal companies that offer salmon-fishing, kayaking, and whale-watching tours.

They found that prices charged for comparable services offered by different tour companies varied by as much as 400 percent.

Phillips summarized the findings in a 13-page report: 2018 Evaluation of Pricing and Online Presence of Oregon Coast Tour Operators.

The findings come from a replica­tion of a study that was first conducted in 2017. The more recent study used the same meth­odology, with some revisions to accommodate Google’s changing presentation of search results.

The 2018 study also found the following:

  • Of the 35 salmon-fishing companies that appeared in their searches, 10 neglected to include information on pricing. “If potential customers are searching online and don’t see a price, they’re not likely to call,” Phillips said.
  • A man and a woman in kayaks

    Since 2017, the number of kayak tours per city has stayed the same at three main businesses along the coast. The prices in two of the three businesses have stayed the same, with one $15 price drop in Gold Beach. (Photo by Erik Urdahl)

    In Astoria, Gold Beach, and Lincoln City, more salmon charter businesses were found in 2018; however, in Brookings, Newport, and Tillamook, fewer businesses were recorded in 2018. This fluctuation may be because businesses had recently opened/closed, or because they did not appear in the top 12 results and were therefore not recorded.

  • Overall, the price of salmon charter tours has slightly increased from 2017. There was one big price drop in Lincoln City, but, generally speaking, prices are on the rise.
  • The number of kayak tours per city has stayed the same at three main businesses along the coast. The prices in two of the three businesses have stayed the same, with one $15 price drop in Gold Beach.
  • The number of whale-watching tours offered in Depoe Bay (four) and Newport (one) has remained the same since 2017. One new whale-watching business was recorded in Tillamook in 2018. Of the 15 coastal towns sampled, only these three offer whale-watching tours.
  • In Depoe Bay and Newport, there was a $3 and $2 average price increase, respectively, in whale-watching tours.

Phillips said the design of this project allows it to be redone over the years, following the same methodology. A third round of data collection will take place this year.

The research was conducted with the support of Oregon Sea Grant, OSU Extension, Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, the Oregon Coast Visitors Association and the Oregon State Marine Board.

For information on Oregon Sea Grant’s and Extension’s Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation program, go to

Sea Grant-funded grad student to help Oregon Legislature with coastal issues


By Rick Cooper

When Oregon’s legislative session kicks off in January, a doctoral student in environmental science will be providing lawmakers with information on marine and coastal issues, thanks to funding from Oregon Sea Grant.

As a recipient of Oregon Sea Grant’s 2019 Legislative Fellowship, Valerie Stephan-LeBoeuf will be assigned to the office of Rep. David Brock Smith, the incoming chair of the Coastal Caucus.

Among her duties, she will organize weekly meetings of the Caucus, research legislation that affects marine resources and the Oregon coast, and report on the progress and outcomes of marine and coastal issues addressed during the session.

Science educator Valerie Stephan-LeBoeuf is Oregon Sea Grant's 2019 Legislative Fellow.

Science educator Valerie Stephan-LeBoeuf is Oregon Sea Grant’s 2019 Legislative Fellow. (Photo by Michaela LeBoeuf)

The Idaho native started her fellowship on Nov. 1 and is based in Salem. She plans to continue her studies during the fellowship, which runs through June 30 when the legislative session ends. She is pursuing a doctorate at the University of Idaho, where she is studying restoration efforts for sea otters along the Oregon coast.

“This fellowship opportunity will not only enhance my understanding of the legislative process in Oregon, but will also provide valuable networking opportunities that will enrich my future graduate studies and professional career,” Stephan-LeBoeuf said.

A former zookeeper, Stephan-LeBoeuf also spent 10 years rehabilitating and releasing wildlife, including bears and cougars. She has also worked as an educator and facilitator for human-wildlife conflict resolution, focusing on humane and sustainable solutions to environmental issues. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in paralegal studies from Boise State University, a master’s in education from Concordia University, and a master’s in environmental science from the University of Idaho.

“I am specifically interested in the management of marine mammals, and in the use of methods that integrate collaboration with stakeholders during policy development and review,” Stephan-LeBoeuf said.

“Valerie’s strong interpersonal skills complement her experience with navigating key natural resource issues,” said Sarah Kolesar, the leader of Oregon Sea Grant’s research and scholars program. “Working with coastal lawmakers will provide her additional experience with marine and ocean topics. Her excellent work ethic makes her a valuable asset for the Caucus.”

Each legislative session, Oregon Sea Grant sponsors one Fellow. The goal is not only to help lawmakers but to help the recipient understand the legislative process and develop skills for collaborating with government and other organizations. Fellows receive a competitive monthly stipend. They do not assume a political position or lobby on any issue.

The next application deadline will be in August 2019 (date TBA). Applicants must be enrolled in a master’s, doctorate, or professional degree program (e.g., law school) in any discipline at an institution of higher education with work physically located in Oregon, or have completed their degree after December 2017. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply.

Now available: New issue of Oregon Sea Grant’s newsletter

June 21, 2018

The spring/summer 2018 issue of Confluence, a newsletter about Oregon Sea Grant’s research, outreach and educational programs, is now available for download. Inside this eight-page issue, you’ll find the following stories:

Cover of the spring/summer 2018 issue of Oregon Sea Grant's newsletter, Confluence

The spring/summer 2018 issue of Oregon Sea Grant’s newsletter, Confluence, is now available for free download.

Want to receive the next issue of Confluence in your email? Click here.

New publications look at Oregon coast recreational outfitter and tour guide businesses

Two new publications from Oregon Sea Grant examine several facets of Oregon coast recreational outfitters and tour guides, including their services, pricing, and online marketing effectiveness.

Fishing guide

A fishing guide demonstrates his technique. (Photo by Erik Urdahl)

Assessment of Registered Oregon Coast Outfitters and Guides examines data related to guides registered with the Oregon State Marine Board and provides a summary of some basic information about registered guides in the state, including numbers, locations and types of services provided. A printable PDF of the eight-page publication is available for free download here.

A companion publication, Survey of Online Marketing Success and Pricing for Oregon Coast Fishing Guides and Tour Operators, presents an inventory of guided salmon fishing, whale watching and kayaking businesses. Guide and tour companies can use this study to gauge the effectiveness of their online marketing and to better understand how their services are priced in the marketplace. You can download a free, printable PDF of the 18-page publication here.


A novice kayaker gets the hang of paddling. (Photo by Erik Urdahl)

The publications represent an effort to better understand such businesses’ economic impacts, job opportunities, resource management, professional development opportunities and marketing support. Individuals and organizations that might benefit from these reports include registered Oregon guide businesses, tour operators, coastal tourism promoters, community and economic development firms, natural-resource management agencies and researchers.

The research for both publications was conducted with the support and cooperation of Oregon Sea Grant (OSG), Oregon State University Extension, Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, the Oregon Coast Visitors Association and the Oregon State Marine Board. Authors are Miles Phillips, an OSG Extension coastal tourism specialist; and Catie Michel, a 2017 OSG Summer Scholar. Phillips is also the author of the OSG publications Agritourism in Oregon’s Coastal Counties: Land Use Policy and Permitting Requirements and Transient Lodging Taxes on the Oregon Coast.


‘State of the Coast’ conference draws 250 people to Florence


About 250 people attended Oregon Sea Grant’s annual State of the Coast conference, which was held this year in Florence on Oct. 28.

Sarah Seabrook explains her research to Leigh Torres during the State of the Coast conference.

Sarah Seabrook (left) explains her research to Leigh Torres during the State of the Coast conference. (Photo: Tiffany Woods)

That figure includes 40 speakers, 35 students who explained their research in a poster session, and eight exhibiting artists, said Jamie Doyle, an Oregon Sea Grant faculty member who helped organize the event. The students came from Oregon State University, Portland State University and the University of Oregon.

Rick Spinrad, a former chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a former vice president for research at OSU, gave the keynote address.

To see photos, visit Oregon Sea Grant’s Flickr page.

‘State of the Coast’ conference set for Oct. 28 in Florence


By Tiffany Woods

Registration has opened for Oregon Sea Grant’s annual State of the Coast conference, which will be held Oct. 28 in Florence.

Shelby Walker addresses the audience at Oregon Sea Grant’s State of the Coast Conference at Gleneden Beach in 2016. She is the director of Oregon Sea Grant. (Photo by Charles Robinson)

Billed as Oregon’s coastal conference for everyone, the event aims to bring together the public, scientists, fishermen, resource managers, teachers, students and conservationists. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn, network and talk about the current status and future of Oregon’s marine environment.

The keynote speaker will be Rick Spinrad, the chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from 2014 to January 2017. He was also the vice president of research at Oregon State University from 2010 to 2014.

Under this year’s theme of “innovation,” presentations and hands-on activities will include the following topics:

  • invasive European green crabs
  • pyrosomes, the jelly-like, tube-shaped organisms that were seen off the Oregon coast in unusually large numbers this year
  • coastal governance and coastal-related legislation
  • the science behind fresh and frozen seafood
  • innovations in observing marine mammals
  • marine gear and technology
  • engaging communities in art
  • tracking local and global seafood across the supply chain
  • forecasting ocean conditions for recreation, profit and safety
  • managing estuaries for everyone

Marie Kowalski, a former master’s student at Oregon State University, talks about her research on mitigating microplastics at Oregon Sea Grant’s State of the Coast Conference in Coos Bay in 2015. (Photo by Anne Farrell-Matthews)

Additionally, students from various universities in Oregon will talk about their coastal research. Also, a coastal chef will demonstrate how to prepare various types of seafood.

Registration in advance is recommended as space is limited. Cost is $35 for the public and $25 for students. It includes refreshments, lunch and a raffle ticket. The conference begins at 8:30 a.m. and concludes with a reception that starts at 4 p.m. For more information and to register, visit The event will take place at the Florence Events Center at 715 Quince St.

New edition of Confluence now available

The fall/winter 2016 edition of Oregon Sea Grant’s semiannual newsletter, Confluence, is now available online. Articles you’ll find in this issue:

  • Guidelines help boaters enjoy watching whales without disturbing them;
  • University of Oregon study reveals why hypoxia hasn’t affected Coos Bay;
  • Simulator helps coastal residents prepare tsunami evacuation strategy;
  • Students get their feet wet in watershed science with StreamWebs;
  • Oregon Sea Grant helps prepare coastal kids for high-tech jobs; and
  • When human health affects environmental health.

You can download a free PDF here.

Oregon Sea Grant's semiannual newsletter

Leigh Torres: Racing whales

“… Our task was to find them, pace them, and let them continue their remarkable behavior without disturbance, while also documenting the behavior and collecting our photos and biopsy samples. Tricky. With a truly team effort, and help from the whales when they slowed down occasionally, we succeeded.

We paced the whales nearby, watching them explode through the water side by side. So close they could have been touching each other.”

— Dr. Leigh Torres, featured in National Geographic’s Explorers Journal blog

Leigh Torres holds a joint position with OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute and Oregon Sea Grant Extension. Her research focuses on 50 blue whales in the South Taranaki Bight, some of New Zealand’s busiest and most industrialized waters, seeking to learn how many whales are there, how important it is as a feeding area for them, and to what population of whales  they belong.

Follow Dr. Torres’ work in the MMI’s blog, complete with video of the racing whales.

“Stranded” seal pups probably aren’t

Seal pups rest on shoreNEWPORT – Around this time each year, many baby seal pups find their way to Oregon’s beaches … and each year, well-meaning people  put the young animals in danger by trying to “rescue” them.

The word from the experts: Keep your distance, keep your dogs on leash – and whatever you do, don’t touch. The pups are simply waiting for their mothers to return from hunting for food.

“It is perfectly normal for seal pups to be left alone on the beach in the spring,” said Oregon State University biologist Jim, who coordinates the statewide Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network headquartered at OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. “Newborn pups typically spend several hours each day waiting for their mothers to reunite with them.”

“Adult female seals spend most of their time in the water, hunting for food, and only come ashore periodically to nurse their pups,” Rice said. “But the mothers are wary of people and unlikely to rejoin a pup if there is activity nearby.”

Rice urges beach goers to stay at least 50 yards from any pup they spot on the beach – and to make sure children and dogs do, too. Approaching the young animals can cause life-threatening stress, and will almost certainly keep their mothers from rejoining them.

Harbor seals on the Oregon coast give birth from March through June, with a peak in mid-May, and authorities have grown accustomed to reports of “stranded” baby seals as more summer visitors come to the coast. Such reports are unnecessary unless an animal appears to be injured or in distress – or if you spot someone bothering or harassing the animals. In such cases, Rice urges a call to the Oregon State Police at 1-800-452-7888, Rice said.

Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, people harrassing these animals – even out of a misplaced desire to help – risk being fined. The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits interference with seal pups and other marine mammals on the beach.

Learn more:

Spring Break brings Whale Watch Week to Oregon coast

Gray Whale - photo courtesy of M. SpieringSpring Whale Watch Week coincides with spring break for most Oregon schools and universities, and that makes March 23-30 a great time to head for the coast and look for whales.

Hundreds of giant gray whales, including females and their new calves, travel past Oregon on their way to their spring and summer feeding grounds off Alaska. Many come fairly close to shore, and it’s not unusual to see their spouts – and sometimes the animals themselves – as they swim northward.

OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm during Whale Watch Week, with special marine mammal programs and activities.

Trained volunteers will be stationed at prime whale-watching spots in coastal parks to help visitors learn how to spot the animals, and to share what they know about their life history, biology and migratory habits. Look for the “Whale Watching Spoken Here” signs.

Learn more:

  •, the official Oregon Parks & Recreation whale-watch site, includes maps showing the best whale viewing areas along the coast.
  • Free .pdf downloads of Oregon Sea Grant’s popular Gray Whales brochure, in English and Spanish versions.
  • Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, a multidisciplinary program dedicated to the study of whales and other marine mammals.