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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 is home to vast underwater kelp forests, similar to old-growth forests, that teem with wildlife. Learn more.

The Challenge

The Oregon coast and this important underwater habitat are threatened by climate change, oil spills, development and overfishing. As with Oregon’s land-based habitat, we need to manage marine habitat in a manner that sustains and restores this great legacy.

Marine Reserve and Protected Areas

In February 2012, the Oregon Legislature approved a bill that added 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.

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 include:

  • 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 larger in reserves than in unprotected areas.

Our Work

The Audubon Society of Portland is part of a coalition that works to ensure the successful implementation of Oregon's marine reserves 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. The coalition also includes includes Surfrider, the Nature Conservancy, Coast Range Association, and Oregon Shores.

We also manage Ten Mile Creek Sanctuary on the coast near Yachats, Ore., advocate for stronger protections for forage fish species, and contribute to the work of the Ocean Policy Advisory Council. The council is charged with assessing sanctuary and marine reserve proposals.

Get Involved

There are ongoing opportunities to engage in the development of management plans for the marine reserves, marine protected areas and 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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