CORVALLIS - An advisory committee of Oregon marine scientists has reviewed a recent report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy at the request of Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, and strongly endorsed some of the key findings of that study - the oceans are in serious trouble, major changes are needed and current ocean policies do not reflect existing science and sound management principles.
Major changes in federal and regional government structure are envisioned in that report, along with expanded public educational programs, doubling the federal ocean and coastal research budget in the next five years, training more experts to deal with these complex issues and improved ocean monitoring.
The review has been submitted to the Ocean-Coastal Management Program of the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, and may be used to help inform the governor's response to the new federal study, which was one of the first major reviews of ocean policies in almost 40 years.
The work was done by researchers from Oregon State University, the University of Oregon and the Oregon Sea Grant program, and organized by OSU's Institute for Natural Resources. A full copy of the review can be found on the web at http://inr.oregonstate.edu/.
"Our work with the governor's office to support and enrich Oregon's response to the national oceans commission report illustrates why Oregon's legislature set up the Institute for Natural Resources," said Gail Achterman, director of the institute. "It gave the governor a place to call to tap into the incredible expertise of our Oregon University System faculty."
In their review, this Marine Science Advisory Panel recommended six key priorities for action:
- A mechanism is needed to coordinate and implement ocean policy development at the federal level. This may entail major structural changes at high levels of government, including creation of a National Ocean Council.
- Regional ocean governance should address ocean problems at ecological scales which can work and involve multiple governmental groups. This type of regional collaboration must tackle such issues as sustainable fisheries, ecosystem-based ocean management, protection of human health, seafood safety, conserving and restoring coastal habitat, development of marine protected areas, management of offshore energy and mineral resources, preventing the spread of invasive species, and moving towards sustainable aquaculture.
- Americans must be educated and informed about marine issues and the connections between oceans, land and the atmosphere. This lifelong effort should include contributions by the Sea Grant College Program, other educational outreach efforts at every age level, and creation in Oregon of a Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence. Interdisciplinary graduate programs should also be expanded in the Oregon University System.
- Additional research is needed to inform these approaches to policy and management. Within five years the federal budget for ocean and coastal research should be doubled, a national ocean research strategy should be developed, Sea Grant should be expanded, socioeconomic research should receive more emphasis, and ocean exploration expanded. Several initiatives could be of special importance to Oregon, such as studies of coasts and their watersheds, managing shoreline erosion and improvement of coastal navigation.
- An integrated ocean observation system is needed to improve the information base. Regional efforts to achieve programs of this type are already underway in the Pacific Northwest, but they can be improved and expanded, with multiple benefits for fisheries management, tsunami warning, protection of coastal habitat, water quality monitoring, climate studies and other issues.
- Investments should be expanded in scientific, technical and human infrastructure. Universities must play a key role in this, more technical experts will be required, funding mechanisms should be identified for new ocean research vessels, and better information technology is needed.
In their report, the Oregon scientists said that current ocean policies focus too much on short-term benefits and lack the long-term, ecosystem-wide perspective that would create healthy, resilient ocean systems which provide multiple benefits.
In many areas, they say, some of the more progressive research, monitoring and educational efforts already under way in Oregon could help serve as national models for more effective and enlightened ocean management. But the problems, both here and across the nation, are still critical.
"In recent years scientists have increasingly come to recognize the interconnectedness among the physical, chemical, geological and biological aspects of the ocean, and their interactions with human society," the researchers wrote in their report. "Yet, a long-term focus has been inadequately represented in the development and implementation of ocean policy."
The many recommendations of the federal report "mesh well" with Oregon's goals for managing its natural resources, the scientists said. Issues such as depleted fisheries, habitat degradation, marine protected areas, shoreline erosion and invasive species are all addressed by parts of the federal study, and much of the work being done in Oregon could be integrated into new national plans.