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Photo of Oregon Governor Kotek signing marine reserves bill


Governor Kotek Signs Ocean Conservation  Bill

Just a week before World Ocean Day, on May 30  Oregon Governor Tina Kotek and Representative David Gomberg (D-10) hosted a signing ceremony for House Bill 4132, a bi-partisan bill sponsored by Oregon’s Coastal and Environmental Caucuses to increase the state’s investment in the Oregon Marine Reserves Program. The Oregon Ocean Alliance celebrated this renewed commitment to ocean conservation established more than a decade ago for the wildlife and marine ecosystems off the Oregon coast. Approximately 9% of Oregon state waters (between 0-3 miles from shore) have been designated as either marine reserves or marine protected areas within the state program as important places for whales, seals, sea lions, fish, corals, and other ocean animals. The signing precedes a coming proclamation this week for Oregon's ocean on behalf of World Ocean Day.

Surfrider Foundation has been working on a campaign for nearly a decade to support Oregon's Marine Reserves and Protected Areas. the signing represented

“Our state’s marine reserves program conducts research that is vital to our understanding of changing ocean conditions and engages our coastal communities in marine stewardship,” said Gomberg. “I’m thrilled we are finally providing additional investments to strengthen the five marine reserves we established more than a decade ago. This renewed commitment is a meaningful step toward better engagement with coastal tribes and fisheries and will help us carry out ocean conservation the Oregon way.”

Oregon’s marine reserve program includes two types of designations: marine reserves, which prohibit all development, including a ban on removing fish or any other living ocean animals; and marine protected areas, where most development is prohibited but some sustainable fishing activities occur. The areas protected stretch along the Oregon coast and include Cape FalconCascade HeadOtter RockCape Perpetua, and Redfish Rocks. More than 30 species of marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles, and fish populations found off the Oregon coast are listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

“Oregon’s ocean is home to extraordinary wildlife and incredible ocean ecosystems, and it’s essential now more than ever to protect critical areas” said Tara Brock, Pacific Legal Director and Senior Counsel for Oceana. “The science shows that marine reserves and protected areas are a key tool for strengthening the resilience of our oceans and the long-term health of marine life in the face of climate change, plastic pollution, and other global ocean threats. We join Governor Kotek in celebration of this important legislation to further the conservation and management of our oceans.”

“These areas represent the first long-term, nearshore ocean conservation and monitoring program executed by the state of Oregon,” said Charlie Plybon, Oregon Policy Manager for Surfrider Foundation and lead for Oregon’s Ocean Alliance on the bill. “These investments will ensure these areas are adaptable to changing ocean conditions, and that the program clearly defines goals for tribes and coastal communities and provides meaningful science for future policy needs.”

“This bill strengthens Oregon’s Marine Reserve Program and will allow us to better understand how people use and benefit from these underwater places, engaging with local communities, and develop scientifically based goals specific to each of the marine reserves,” said Joe Liebezeit, Assistant Director of Statewide Conservation, Bird Alliance of Oregon.

“With the passage of HB 4132, Oregon legislators responded to the waves of support for our Marine Reserves Program – Oregon’s most successful ocean conservation program. Now, a more robust program is on the horizon which will benefit the whales, seals, and seabirds that call our ocean home.” said Ian Giancarlo, Oceans Advocate with Environment Oregon.

“Our marine reserves and protected areas are a coastal treasure. These special places are a combination of underwater state parks, wildlife preserves, and living laboratories. This legislation continues Oregon’s legacy of ocean conservation and its passing makes a strong statement that the state is willing to invest in understanding and protecting our coastal resources and communities,” said Annie Merrill, Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition.

House Bill 4132 increased funding for the marine reserves program to develop an adaptive management plan focused on ecological and socioeconomic research and to expand engagement with local tribes and coastal communities. The bill passed the Oregon Senate on March 6, 2024, by a vote of 26-3, and passed the Oregon House unanimously by a vote of 55-0.

A library of photos from the Oregon marine reserves program can be accessed here.

The Oregon Ocean Alliance is a coalition of organizations working together to advance shared priorities aimed to advance the protection of Oregon’s ocean and coastal ecosystems. Founding members include Audubon Society of Lincoln City, Bird Alliance of Oregon, Coast Range Association, Environment Oregon, The Nature Conservancy (Oregon Chapter), Surfrider Foundation, Oceana, and Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition.