Susan Chambers Staff Writer The World January 18, 2008
REEDSPORT — It’s all about balance in a growing debate about marine reserves and, to a lesser extent, wave energy.
Chip Terhune, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s chief of staff, opened the Reedsport marine reserves and wave energy discussion with about 75 people Thursday night at the Port of Umpqua with comments about his previous meetings with coastal residents. Terhune was following up on discussions fishermen had with Kulongoski in November.
“Folks feel strongly and folks feel differently,” Terhune said of the different communities he’d visited on the North and Central coasts, but they all had one thing in common. “People are passionate about their communities.”
That passion soon was evident Thursday night.
Commercial fisherman Jeff Mulkey has been vocal during discussions about placing wave energy-generating buoys in prime crabbing grounds off Gardiner.
“I really believe there are better and cheaper ways to develop renewable energy,” Mulkey said.
And off-limits areas of the ocean — marine reserves — would deal a second blow to fishermen already dealing with increasing federal regulations and other closed areas in federal waters, he said.
“There is no science that tells us we need reserves,” Mulkey said. “Let’s do one and see how it goes.”
Terhune said he could understand Mulkey’s point of view — and others, who echoed the same sentiments — and that he’d be sure and take those comments back to the governor. At the same time, there is an increasing scientific push for marine reserves and wave energy, he said.
“The decibel level on these issues is going to get higher and higher,” Terhune said. He also noted ongoing efforts to establish marine protected areas — areas that have flexible uses, as opposed to the complete closed areas of marine reserves — in California, Washington and nationwide.
It’s that huge push that often has fishermen lined up on one side of issue and environmental and conservation groups lined up on the other. Fishermen, particularly in Oregon, see increasing regulations and more fish — fish they’re not allowed to catch due to regulations. Environmental and conservation groups have poured millions of dollars into the effort to advance the advocacy and establishment of marine reserves.
Commercial fisherman Peter Keyes said he’s fished in California, Gold Beach, Port Orford and other parts of the Oregon Coast and also worked in the oil and gas industry, driving supply boats. In California, the establishment of marine protected areas and marine reserves has been a touchy issue.
“I haven’t met a single (California commercial fisherman) who’s happy about marine reserves,” Keyes said.
Winchester Bay commercial fisherman Barry Nelson referred to some of the groups pushing marine reserves as “over-the-top” environmental groups who want to take the extreme conservation policies applied to the land and apply them to the ocean.
“They’re never happy,” he said.
A few environmental groups did send out press releases to reporters and provide talking points for their members so participants could testify in support of marine reserves during Terhune’s meetings. In Reedsport, though, the supporters in the audience who have been outspoken at federal fishery management meetings and state meetings said nothing to Terhune. Only sport and commercial fishermen and tribal representatives made comments.
Charleston salmon troller Shawn Ryan, who routinely fishes in California, said fishermen there have been hit hard by closed areas and that environmental groups have dumped lots of money into the marine protected areas process.
“It’s crazy,” he said.
The Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council is scheduled to make a recommendation about marine reserves to the governor in November but has heard similar concerns. The governor’s nomination process would allow anyone from Oregon — even representatives or members of out-of-state conservation groups — to make recommendations about which areas to close in the ocean.
Science should come first, Nelson said.
“Study it to see what you need,” he said. “The public knows less than anyone (about the ocean) and you’re asking them to nominate sites?
“The process is way out of whack.”
Terhune, patient and open to comments, took a lot of notes and asked lots of questions during the hour-and-a-half meeting. He also noted that both short-term and long-term issues must be considered in relation to marine reserves and wave energy.
“We’ve got to figure out how to do this the Oregon way,” Terhune said.
The Oregon way is through OPAC, he added.
The council already is in the process of creating outreach meetings to help the public understand what marine reserves are, how the nomination process works and to seek input. Those meetings will be held before November.
“Tell them what you told me,” Terhune said. “They need to hear your voice. … It sounds like we’ve got a lot more work to do than we thought.”