The waters around Cape Perpetua are under consideration for protection as one of three proposed marine reserves.
A recent scientific study co-authored by Oregon State University marine biologists showed that marine reserves help boost fisheries over 100 miles away.
“These [areas] are going to change rapidly as the ocean warms, acidifies and harmful algal blooms occur,” notes Mark Hixon, one of the OSU co-authors of the study, stressing that marine reserves lead to more resilient ecosystems that can weather changes better than areas that are regularly fished.
But the study hasn’t changed the minds of many Oregon fishermen who have fought against reserves on the state’s coast for years and continue to oppose them. “People in the fishing industry see marine reserves as a solution looking for a problem,” says Oregon Trawl Commission director Brad Pettinger. He and other opponents fear that new marine reserves would threaten the livelihoods of coastal fishermen. According to Oregon’s employment department, the state's total landed value of commercially caught fish in 2009 was $109 million.
Not all fishermen agree with Pettinger, who represents the interests of Oregon’s trawling fishermen, who fish 10 to 30 miles from the coast. The proposed marine reserves extend three miles out from the coast. “Historically, (pilot reserve Redfish Rocks) had been fished pretty hard,” says Port Orford Ocean Resource Team spokesman Aaron Longton, who hook and line fishes near Redfish Rocks. “They wiped this place out,” he says, speaking of trawling boats that, until restrictions were place in 2002, operated near the shore.
The state Legislature will consider funding three proposed reserves, but finding the money in light of the state's $3.5 billion shortfall will be a challenge.