By BILL LUNDQUIST
Pilot Staff Writer
Environmentalists praised Gov. John Kitzhaber last week for his Nov. 13 letter in support of the establishment of marine reserves in state waters, but some local leaders did not agree.
Kitzhaber's letter commended members of the Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) for their two-year study of marine reserves, and their recommendation to establish a limited number of them.
OPAC voted in August, 12 to three with one abstention, to recommend proceeding with the planning and establishment of marine reserve areas in the Oregon Territorial Sea.
Rep. Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach, said Kitzhaber's comments were not surprising, since he initiated the process of looking into establishing marine reserves.
He said the governor weeded out people from OPAC who didn't agree, and put pressure on members to return the recommendation that they did. Even so, said Krieger, the vote to proceed was not unanimous.
He said there is just as much scientific evidence to show that anything that can be accomplished with marine reserves can already be done with the existing regulatory system.
"Marine Reserves will be a sanctuary playground for an elite of researchers from colleges," said Krieger, "who can do their research now with funding."
He said he supports more money for research for sustainable fish harvesting.
He predicted some of the no-fishing marine reserves would be large, pushing the fishing effort into smaller areas that can't sustain the pressure.
When harvests have to be closed in those areas too, said Krieger, it will end fishing on the Oregon Coast.
He said the "far-left extremist" environmental groups supporting marine reserves also oppose logging and "want everything off-limits to human beings."
Russ Crabtree, manager of the Port of Brookings Harbor, said he would take the area's opinion on marine reserves to a meeting in Astoria on Dec. 6.
Crabtree said the governor's letter was a "green flag" to keep the process of establishing marine reserves moving.
"The ports of Astoria and Portland need to be involved in what is happening," said Crabtree.
"That means keeping a voice in the process, monitoring the program to lessen catastrophic concerns."
"Our goal is to minimize the impact to industries and the coastal community," said Crabtree.
"We have to go the course on this issue. We're willing to go the extra mile."
Bernie Lindley, president of the Brookings Fishermen's Marketing Association, said, "Certainly this is bad. This is not a good thing."
He said other management tools can be used to accomplish what marine reserves are supposed to do.
He said those tools already control the harvest by species, and the "natural reserves" on the South coast already protect everything in them.
"Marine reserves would set up a wilderness area," said Lindley, "but this (the South coast) already is."
"This is another nail in our coffin for our local community," he said. "It will further restrict recreational fishing."
"This is the safest harbor in Oregon," said Lindley. "That's a tremendous asset, but we won't be able to use it."
"Marine reserves won't do any good, but will hurt the economy," he said. "It's very frustrating."
Lindley was gearing up for crab season, but said marine reserves would ban crabbing too, even though crabs are migratory and would move through the reserve areas.
The reaction of members of the Audubon Society last week was more positive.
"We commend Gov. Kitzhaber for demonstrating strong leadership in protecting Oregon's ocean legacy," said Paul Engelmeyer, Living Oceans Program officer for the National Audubon Society. He was also an OPAC member.
"As members of the conservation community, we look forward to working with state and federal agencies, ocean users, scientists, and others to implement a marine reserve system that truly protects ocean resources over the long term."
Avalyn Taylor, assistant conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland, said, "Oregon has taken a small step in the right direction by endorsing the concept of marine reserves, but now it's time to put those words into action.
"If we wait too long to implement marine reserves, some significant ocean habitats, or even species, could be lost.
"The environmental community challenges state agencies and OPAC to develop and implement a science-based plan that will establish marine reserves in Oregon's ocean by 2004."
In his letter, Kitzhaber said, "I urge the OPAC to begin this process quickly and work diligently to complete Phase I, coastwide planning for reserves, with broad public support and strong technical and scientific rationale.
"I encourage you to set a goal of designating initial reserve sites in Phase II within a year following the coastwide plan."
"However," said Kitzhaber, "actual implementation of reserves should occur, as you recommend, after assessments of economic or social impacts, and after consultation with key natural resource boards and commissions."
Taylor saw the governor's letter as an endorsement of the establishment of "ocean areas that are fully protected from extractive or harmful activities."
Kitzhaber actually said, "...I ask OPAC to work with stakeholders to design a system that may include some fully protected reserves to test the concept, but be clear that not every reserve would limit fishing."
He wrote, "This is a time of economic stress for coastal communities, and I recognize the concern of the commercial and recreational fishing industry that reserves might end up merely as large ocean areas closed to fishing."
"Although any marine reserve proposal will affect only a small fraction of the state's offshore waters," said Kitzhaber, "it is critical that this issue be approached in a measured and balanced manner."
He asked the directors of several stage agencies to assist in OPAC's planning process.
Kitzhaber said he would strongly recommend the next governor fully support OPAC's efforts.