Ocean Program Overview

The Ocean Program involves Oregonians in sustaining healthy land-sea-air connections in one of the world's richest coastal environments.

Photo of Cape Arago area.

The Oregon Shores Ocean Program was launched in 2004 to support the effort to establish marine reserves and protected areas off the Oregon coast and to work on other ocean conservation issues. These included enhancing public awareness and input on marine spatial planning for the entirety of Oregon’s territorial sea –  identifying and protecting ecologically important nearshore and shoreline areas and defining suitable parameters for marine renewable energy research and development.

By understanding and appreciating how shoreline and marine ecosystems, human residents and visitors interact, we can inform and support good management of marine resources and the related coastal and inland activities. Oregon Shores was a co-founder of the Oregon Ocean coalition, which began the campaign to create marine reserves and marine protected areas in Oregon, and participated actively in the successor Our Ocean coalition, which saw this effort to legislative success in 2012.  In 2014, Oregon Shores joined with five other non-profit groups to launching a new coalition, the Oregon Marine Reserves Partnership (OMRP).

Ocean Conservation in a Regional Context  

Oregon Shores is a regional conservation organization with a mission to support conservation efforts in the entire coastal region in Oregon. To foster adaptive management for healthy ecosystems and communities, Oregon Shores works at local, state and federal levels, seeking to inspire Oregonians and their decision-makers to take responsibility for Oregon’s share of the Pacific Northwest coast and the global ocean. The Oregon coast needs a strong regional group that pulls together the full range of conservation concerns at different scales—land use, water quality, biodiversity and endangered species, shoreline management, marine conservation, and planning for climate change impacts, among others—and integrates communications and actions within a coherent regional strategy, using the “land-sea-air connection” as an integrating principle. Ocean conservation efforts are best viewed through this comprehensive regional perspective.

Oregon Shores regularly collaborates with local groups on issues or projects within their geographic focal areas, and with issue-specific regional or national groups on particular coastal campaigns. Many Oregon Shores members are active in local conservation organizations in their communities, such as watershed councils or community land trusts. Many are involved in organizations focused on thematic issues such as marine mammal or bird conservation, sustainable forestry or fishing, or recreational activities and related industries. Oregon Shores promotes networking among these groups, cultivates awareness of common interests, threats and opportunities, and advocates for collective understanding and action.

Marine Protected Areas as an Integrating Paradigm for Coastal Conservation

In 2012, Oregon completed the designation of a system of small, fully protected marine reserves within the Oregon Territorial Sea, along with associated marine protected areas in which conservation priorities are blended with a range of low-impact harvest activities. This system represents a major recognition of the importance of conservation for coastal natural resource management. In Oregon, as in many places around the world, marine reserves have the potential to support sustainable fisheries and resilient marine ecosystems well into the future by providing permanent refuges in which marine species can thrive, reproduce, and eventually repopulate surrounding seas, affording scientists with comparison areas for studying nearby human impacts, and buffering the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems.

The location, size, and management priorities for these protected areas were developed using community input on conservation and economic concerns, immediate and long-term perspectives, and systemic effects on larger regional ecosystems and human community systems. Community involvement in adaptive management will have many benefits—benefits for those involved, benefits for the protected areas, and benefits for the fishermen, communities, and industries that depend on marine resources.

Oregon marine reserves and marine protected areas thus provide the public with a living laboratory in which to learn how conservation, sustainability, and environmental concerns can be integrated with economic development, good governance, and research and education in marine science and technology. Putting this knowledge into practice in the implementation and management of marine protected areas will present a learning opportunity for the entire coastal region.

Explore the details of specific marine conservation topics here.