Marine sanctuary proposal pulled

Written by Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer April 01, 2014 07:43 pm
Bob Bailey, the Salem man who nominated the waters off Port Orford to be named a federally protected marine sanctuary, has withdrawn his submission, saying more public discussion has to be held to gain community support.

County Commissioner David Brock Smith, who lives in Port Orford, said he was glad the nomination has been pulled.

He and the other commissioners were about to pen a letter to the governor in opposition to the nomination when Bailey retracted it.

Bailey said he plans to hold more public meetings with proponents of the sanctuary and possibly renominate it later.

Smith said he became aware of the nomination late last month and was concerned because it seemed it was progressing despite the Port Orford’s adamant opposition to forming a committee to consider it.

The nomination

The sanctuary discussion began last summer when Port Orford Mayor Jim Auborn learned that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration intended to change its regulations regarding nominations to encourage communities, rather than federal agencies, to nominate sites.

“The mayor felt it might be a way to build the economy as well as giving the community a bigger voice in the management of the resources. 

Auborn proposed creating a committee to study the feasibility — an idea that was promptly dismissed at the next meeting at which he was not in attendance.

Indeed, Auborn’s suggestion to form the committee is part of the reason behind the citizen effort to recall him later this month.

As proposed, the sanctuary would range from south of Bandon to the Rogue River Reef near Gold Beach, and westward 33 miles, for a total area of 1,340 square miles.

The nomination said that area has been identified by the community for its outstanding ecologic, economic and cultural resources and values that, if designated as a protected sanctuary, would receive federal and state management to ensure commercial fisheries, strengthen the local economy and infuse new resources for education and outreach, as well as research and monitoring.

Residents, fishery organizations and elected officials in the area vehemently disagree, Smith said. Some have said other sanctuaries, under federal rule, remove local control from the oceans and end up affecting inland agriculture and grazing operations upstream of rivers that feed into the sanctuary.

Fishery management

Bailey has managed coastal planning conservation and development with the Oregon Coastal Management Program; spent 20 years creating Oregon’s ocean planning and management program; and currently is working on the wave energy program off Coos Bay that received initial approval last week.

“Sanctuaries are not marine reserves,” he said. “They allow commercial and recreational fishing virtually everywhere. Sanctuaries do not regulate fisheries. If there is objective research that shows sanctuaries on the West Coast have adversely affected commercial fishery catches for any species, we have yet to find it. We have no interest in harming or hampering any sector of fishing. Period.”

Brett Webb, a commercial fisherman of 20 years, senior Port of Port Orford commissioner, and a former harbormaster in Monterey Bay, California’s controversial National Marine Sanctuary, warned the public in an email earlier this month that a sanctuary is not the way to proceed to protect local resources.

“Mr. Bailey claims a National Marine Sanctuary would not affect fishing … and a National Marine Sanctuary would have no authority beyond its boundaries,” Webb wrote. “This is simply not true. He suggests local control is not lost. That statement is laughable.”

“We are well aware of the rocky relationship between some in the West Coast fishing fleets, particularly in Monterey, and the National Marine Sanctuary Program,” Bailey wrote in an email. “However, we find this angst and anger are not universal among fishermen, although a few will speak up to challenge the loud ‘hell, no’ voices on the dock.”

A few months passed, Bailey said, and a few citizens said they wanted to look into the idea again.

“They decided … the potential benefits of a sanctuary to the community were compelling enough to pursue the idea of a nomination,” Bailey wrote. “They were well aware this would not be popular, especially in the face of the loud opinions being expressed about sanctuaries and the venom aimed at anyone who dared speak in favor. You’d be surprised at the level of … support the group has received.”

Bailey said he is looking out for the local economy, as well.

“You may have noticed there is something of an economic crisis in the area, with poverty levels in many families and in city and county governments,” Bailey wrote. “Ideas are few and far between as to how to grow the economy of Curry County.

“Based on the experience of 13 other sanctuaries around the country, we are confident that a Cape Blanco National Marine Sanctuary will add good jobs to the community and, over time, add a whole new level of economic security by strengthening existing businesses and adding new ones without harming traditional economic sectors, including fishing.”

Even if the nomination is submitted later, it faces a long process of fact-finding, analysis and evaluations.

Smith said he spoke with state Sen. Jeff Kruse and Rep. Wayne Krieger, both of whom were “adamantly opposed to it.”

“What really concerns me is the lack of public process,” Smith said. “It is just … bad. People who live in this environment are adamantly opposed to it.”