Marine protections proposed at Heceta Head and Cape Perpetua
Posted: Thursday, Oct 9th, 2008
Yachats-area residents are proposing new protections for the waters off Heceta Head and Cape Perpetua. The community is proposing the creation of a marine protected area and marine reserve to complement conservation efforts on the coast statewide. This remote and productive area is one of Oregon’s natural treasures.
Local residents proposed a no-take marine reserve and an adjacent marine protected area (MPA) that would still allow most fishing activities. The proposal area starts at the north end of Smelt Sands State Wayside to Berry Creek, south of Heceta Head and measures 25.9km in length. The MPA portion would protect the area from destructive bottom trawling and offshore development, while still allowing most commercial and recreational uses, such as crabbing and salmon trolling. The proposed marine reserve portion would protect marine life and habitat from all extractive use, while still allowing non-extractive recreational uses such as surfing, diving, clamming on shore and vessel transport.
The landscape from Cape Perpetua to Heceta Head includes Cummins Creek and Rock Creek Wilderness Areas and contains the largest intact stand of coastal temperate rain forest of Sitka spruce and western hemlock in the lower 48 states. The coastal basins here are home to a number of threatened and endangered species, and the coastal waters support an incredible diversity of marine life.
“Over 450,000 people visit this area’s state parks and waysides every year,” said Larry Nixon, Yachats resident and member of the city council. “They are drawn by the stunning coastline and the incredible wildlife viewing opportunities. By adding marine protections, we can support the web of life here and ensure the area maintains its appeal for hikers, campers and whale watchers. Fishermen will also benefit, as the protected areas will help fish populations along Heceta Bank to recover and grow more abundant.”
Oregon is the only west coast state without a network of marine protected areas and reserves. Although marine reserves have been discussed at the state level since 2002, this is the first time the state is moving to create long-term protection for marine ecosystems.
“Marine reserves and protected areas have been a missing puzzle piece in this area’s coastal management plan, because so much of our efforts have been focused on rehabilitating single species, rather than the whole ecosystem,” says Paul Engelmeyer, Yachats resident and member of the Ocean Policy Advisory Council. “These new underwater parks will enhance the wilderness areas near Cape Perpetua and Heceta Head, connecting land and sea and preserving the area’s natural heritage.”
Over the past six months, community groups from all along the Oregon coast have worked to design proposals for marine protections that provide ecological benefits while also considering the needs of local residents and businesses. The groups represent a broad range of interests and are made up of business owners, fishermen, scientists, surfers, conservationists and teachers. The Yachats-area group is composed of many recreational ocean users, as well as retired marine biologists and conservationists.
“The ocean doesn’t belong to any one person, here on the coast ... we know the area’s resources well,” says Gus Gates, a Florence resident and major contributor to the plan. “That’s why in developing this plan we went to community residents, to get their feedback on how this public resource should be managed and protected, so that we can see the maximum benefit of a healthy ocean, both economically and ecologically.”
All nominations had to meet the deadline of Sept. 30 to be considered by the Ocean Policy Advisory Council and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. They will then move forward into a review process where they are considered for eventual implementation.
The Yachats city council has passed a resolution firmly supporting the creation of marine reserves and protected areas in Oregon’s territorial sea, joining several other city councils on the coast, including Cannon Beach, and Lincoln City.