Marine Reserves News: Coastal Business Study, SCUBA Surveys, and The Future of Marine Reserves News

A Deeper Dive

Business as Usual?


 A new survey suggests that coastal business owners are not negatively impacted by Oregon’s Marine Reserves, a significant shift in what businesses feared just before the first reserves were established more than a decade ago.

Sea & Shore Solutions this month concluded a business survey funded by the Marine Reserves Program, and the conclusions show that today’s perceptions about business impacts among coastal business owners contrast greatly to expectations just before Oregon’s first reserves went online in 2012. Its series of online and telephone interviews show that 18% of coastal business owners surveyed reported an overall increase in business because of marine reserves. That differs from a 2011 survey that found nearly two-thirds of businesses expected decreases in their businesses prior to the reserves becoming established.

No business owners who took part in the survey reported negative impacts to their business because of the reserves, and 59% reported no change. In all, 82% of the business owners surveyed also were aware of the marine reserves. The survey results also revealed an apparent shift in what business owners perceive as motivations of travelers to the Oregon Coast. Business owners who perceived fishing as a travel motive dropped from 10% in 2010 to 6% in 2022, the survey concludes. Business owners who perceived non-fishing outdoor connections like visiting beaches and scenic attractions as a motive rose from 7% in 2010 to 14% in 2022.

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How Much Do You Know About Oregon’s Marine Reserves?

HD_Visitor intercept

Oregon State University (OSU) researchers beginning this month will visit nearly two dozen coastal sites to find out what visitors know about Oregon’s Marine Reserves and whether their visits will help foster change in habits to curb climate change.

Two groups of two interviewers will begin asking visitors to answer questions focused on education and outreach about ocean acidification and whether visiting the ocean can trigger personal habit changes to reduce global warming’s impacts. Participants will also be asked about their knowledge of Oregon’s five marine reserves. The interviews will take place at 23 parks, visitor centers, and other beach access points over the next 10 weeks. Many of the sites are at or near marine reserves. These types of surveys are called “visitor intercept surveys” that will take about four or five minutes in a low-pressure environment.

“We go out of our way to avoid intrusion with peoples’ recreational experiences,” said Tommy Swearingen, the “semi-retired” Human Dimensions Project Leader for the Oregon Marine Reserves Program who is assisting in project coordination. The study is targeting at least 1,600 respondents, but Swearingen expects upwards of 2,500 or more participants.

Ocean Acidification, sometimes referred to as OA, is the byproduct of increased carbon dioxide dissolved in sea water over the past two centuries. It triggers chemical reactions that make sea water more acidic, impacting the entire ocean food web including fish and shellfish.

“Climate change is happening in everybody’s backyard and it’s happening globally,” says Dr. Megan Jones, the OSU conservation social scientist overseeing the study by master’s student Jennifer Waldo. “You don’t see OA with your naked eye, but it’s affecting local marine life and industries. Maybe this will make something abstract feel more relevant to people.”

By adding this relevancy, researchers hope to gauge whether this spurs interviewees to make lifestyle changes that reduce their carbon footprint. The results will be matched with results from online surveys of about 1,400 Oregonians concluded this past spring.


Fish and Wildlife Commissioners Celebrate Marine Reserves


Marine Reserves Program Leader Lindsay Aylesworth gave an enthusiastic presentation celebrating the program’s 10-year anniversary to Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission members during the commission’s June visit to Newport.

The Yaquina Lighthouse served as a natural backdrop to Aylesworth’s presentation during a tour stop there by the commission as well as Marine Resources Program managers.

The commission came to Newport to conduct its monthly meeting but also took the time to hear about various other programs along the Oregon Coast. Marine resources managers shared updates on topics such as offshore wind, fish research, regulation changes, and fishery impacts.

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Ecological Team Updates

hook and line surveys

Hook-and-line: Spring hook-and-line surveys out of Garibaldi have been concluded for the 2023 spring season. A total of five trips were made, with 39 volunteers. Variable weather and last-minute trips characterized the last push of surveys and volunteers caught a total of 366 fish. Hook-and-line surveys are planned for the fall out of Garibaldi and Port Orford targeting the Cape Falcon and Redfish Rocks Marine Reserves and their associated comparison areas.

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SMURFs: Standard Monitoring Units for Recruitment of Fishes, or SMURFs, have been deployed at the Redfish Rocks and Otter Rock Marine Reserves with the help of Oregon State University. Our team and partners have begun sampling of SMURFs this month in which they retrieve each SMURF and collect the juvenile fishes that have settled in the structure, while replacing it with a new SMURF. Sampling will occur bi-weekly until early fall.


SCUBA: SCUBA surveys have been completed at the Otter Rock Marine Reserve with help from dive partners at the Oregon Coast Aquarium and Oregon State University. Six days of dive surveys were completed this spring.


Intertidal: Intertidal surveys targeting mussel and sea star densities and abundance will occur during the upcoming low tide series. The first days are planned for July 5th and 6th and again for August 2nd and 3rd.


New Staff Update

We are pleased to announce a new Ecological Project Leader - Dr. Moritz Schmid.


After receiving an M.Sc. in nature conservation and a PhD in oceanography, he settled on the Oregon Coast working at Oregon State University. Starting with his PhD and extending through his work at OSU, Moritz has been working at the intersection of ecology, computer science, and ocean technology, focusing on underwater camera systems and AI to better understand larval fish dynamics in the California Current. In his position at ODFW he is looking forward to bringing together his background in nature conservation and ecology, with his knowledge of the Oregon Coast’s oceanography to address the goals of the Marine Reserves Program. Mo will join our team starting in mid-July.

We also want to acknowledge the hard work of our Ecological Assistant Project Leader, Stephanie Fields, who has stepped up for the last year to lead the Ecological Monitoring Team during a time of staff transitions. Thank you, Stephanie!


Marine Reserves News Moves to Quarterly Editions

We will be shifting from a monthly newsletter to a quarterly newsletter because of staff capacity changes resulting from the 2023 Oregon Legislature session.
Our Outreach and Community Engagement Project Leader position has been removed from the two-year program budget beginning July 1st. In an effort to share program updates on research activities and findings, the newsletter will now come out quarterly.

With the loss of this position, we will also be experiencing a shift on our team. We are grateful to have had Kendall Smith fill the role of Outreach and Community Engagement Project Leader. She will transition July 1 back into the position of Natural Resource Policy Fellow funded through Oregon Sea Grant and assigned to the Marine Reserves Program.

Kendall took on this role in March despite its legislative uncertainty. She worked to reinvigorate relationships with community teams, maintain marine reserve communication channels, and support new and existing outreach events.
Thank you, Kendall, for your passion and commitment to this work. We look forward to charting a new course with you as our Natural Resource Policy Fellow.


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