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Ocean Ecosystems

The Oregon coast is one of the wildest and most unique places in our state.

Tidepool - tammi miller
Tidepool - tammi miller

The Oregon coast is one of the wildest and most unique places in our state, offering exceptional opportunities for viewing fish and wildlife habitat. It hosts vast underwater kelp forests, similar to old growth forests, which teem with wildlife. Learn more.

The Challenge

The Oregon coast and these important underwater habitats are in danger from global warming, oil spills, coastal development and overfishing. As with Oregon’s land-based habitat, we need to manage our marine habitat in a manner that sustains and restores this great legacy.

Latest Developments

Sept. 25, 2013 – A new Oregon State University report, titled “Coastal residents perception of marine reserves in Oregon,” has found overwhelming support in Oregon’s coastal communities for marine reserves, with almost 70 percent of coastal residents in support. Moreover, the majority of coastal residents believe a number of federal, state and local groups should have influence in managing these areas, with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife taking the dominant role.

On Jan. 24, 2013, the Land Conservation and Development Commission approved a Territorial Sea Plan for Oregon. It designates important habitat for seafaring birds and other wildlife while identifying four areas off the coast as suitable for future renewable energy development. Learn more.

On Feb. 22, 2012, the Oregon Legislature approved a Kitzhaber-backed bill that adds 38 square miles of marine reserves in Oregon's biologically rich territorial sea. Oregon is now home to five marine reserves: Cape Falcon, Cascade Head, Otter Rock, Cape Perpetua and Redfish Rocks. View a map | More about Senate Bill 1510.

Marine Reserve and Protected Areas

Marine reserves are areas in the ocean that fully protect fish, wildlife and their habitats from destruction within their borders. Marine protected areas are places in the ocean set aside to either fully (through a marine reserve) or partially protect fish, wildlife and their habitats within their borders. A continuum of protection of fish, wildlife and their habitats can exist within a designated area that has both levels of protection. Benefits of marine reserves:

  • Marine reserves provide insurance. Reserves offer protection for our ocean resources, or resilience, from human-caused impacts.
  • Marine reserves provide places where fish can feed breed and thrive.
  • Marine reserves provide a living and dynamic laboratory for research and education by providing a benchmark to assess the effects of fishing, oil drilling and other human induced impacts.

Scientists have studied the performance of more than 120 marine reserves of many different sizes in a variety of temperate and tropical habitats. A comprehensive review of marine reserves reveal that most week-regulated marine reserves result in relatively large, rapid and long-lasting increases in population size, number of species and reproductive output of marine animals and plants. The review found that the average biomass or weight of all animals and plants studied. is more than four times large in reserves than in unprotected areas.

The Audubon Society of Portland's Work

Portland Audubon is part of a coalition that includes Surfrider, The Nature Conservancy, Coast Range Association, and Oregon Shores with the goal of successfully implementing marine reserve protection by influencing decision makers, building community awareness and public participation, and supporting agency and academic research, management, and monitoring efforts. The effectiveness of marine reserve protections will be evaluated in 2023. Portland Audubon also manages Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary - located on the coast near Yachats, Ore. - and actively contributes to the work of the Ocean Policy Advisory Council, which is charged with the responsibility of assessing sanctuary and marine reserve proposals.

Get Involved

There are ongoing opportunities to engage in the development of management plans for each of the five Marine Reserves, Marine Protected Areas and the Seabird Protection Area located adjacent to Cape Falcon, Cascade Head, Otter Rock, Cape Perpetua and Redfish Rocks. For more information contact Paul Engelmeyer at Audubon Society of Portland: pengelmeyer@peak.org | 541-547-4227


Dolphins - Don Baccus
Dolphins - Don Baccus
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