Thus far, it has been a fascinating experience serving as a West Coast Sea Grant fellow for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD), and the Office of Governor Kitzhaber.
April 2013 was an important milestone for marine policy, with the issuance of the National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan. This national plan includes overarching, guiding principles for management decisions, with the ultimate goal of sustaining resilient oceans and coasts. In other words, the national plan helps guide decision-makers all over the country, at all levels of government, achieve ocean stewardship for years to come.
Successful ocean stewardship is no small feat. In-fact, it is an extremely complex undertaking involving many different ocean uses, both biological and anthropogenic, coupled with a wide diversity of stakeholders. The ocean is a very busy place. Oregon’s marine waters are used for shipping, fishing, research, along with many other activities, such as planned renewable energy development areas. Biologically, Oregon’s waters contain valuable resources, such as essential habitat, a large diversity of fish species, along with shellfish populations, kelp and eelgrass beds. Furthermore, our coastal ocean contains important shorebird foraging grounds and whale migratory routes.
One way to balance our natural resources with the range of ocean uses is through careful planning. A marine plan helps guide the use of Oregon’s ocean waters, similar to the way city planning guides land use in towns throughout the country. Oregon has been engaged in marine planning for over two decades and recently completed its inaugural marine spatial plan, an amendment to the Territorial Sea Plan, which was specific to marine renewable energy. One key component of a marine plan is spatially explicit data on ocean ecosystems and human uses. Oregon MarineMap was developed to help visualize all the uses and ecological functions that occur in our marine waters.
Many marine issues off Oregon are inter-jurisdictional. That is, they aren’t specific to Oregon, but impact the entire west coast. Some examples of these regional issues are: marine debris, climate change, along with sea level rise and ocean acidification. In 2006, the Governors of Washington, Oregon and California decided to form the West Coast Governors Alliance (WCGA) to address regional issues that have the capacity to negatively impact ocean health. The WCGA provides a platform for regional collaboration in order to address these issues. Action Coordination Teams were formed to serve as region-wide facilitation and coordination groups on specific ocean issues.
My role is to support the WCGA and associated Action Coordination Teams in order to further regional collaboration and sustainable ocean stewardship. Additionally, I am working to advance marine planning efforts in Oregon. It’s going to be a busy, but very exciting year!