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Mapping efforts lure rec anglers

Posted: Wednesday, Apr 7th, 2010

Survey part of larger planning process along Oregon’s coast

Efforts to accurately map prime fishing grounds along the Oregon coast to protect them from encroachment by the rising tide of potential new uses are now extending from commercial fishing enterprises to the recreational side of the equation. Portland-based Ecotrust is sending out letters and postcards to folks in the recreational fishing community, asking them to participate in an online survey.

Onno Husing, executive director of the Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association (OCZMA), said he penned the letter, partly because OCZMA has an administrative role in the overall Oregon Territorial Sea Plan (TSP) amendment process.

“I also believe strongly in the ocean planning process, and recreational fishing is a big deal to our region,” he added.

OCZMA and Ecotrust have partnered to gather information to help guide the placement of wave energy facilities “in ways that reduce the impacts on fishermen” - commercial and recreational.

The survey, said Cheryl Chen of Ecotrust, gives sport fishermen the opportunity “to directly contribute to Oregon’s wave energy planning process.” Husing said it would also allow them to begin collecting information about spending patterns of recreational fishermen.

Setting the stage

“About two years ago, companies began to file claims for chunks of Oregon’s ocean space for development,” Husing writes in the March 16 letter. “Serious conflicts arose with the fisheries.”

In 2008, state officials began to work with local governments, OCZMA, and others to develop an ocean plan to protect sensitive marine ecosystems and important recreational and commercial fishing grounds from new types of development, including wave energy facilities.

“In Oregon, we are fortunate,” noted Husing. “Under Oregon law (through Goal 19), there is a clear mandate to ensure recreational and commercial fishing grounds are protected. However, to make Goal 19 a reality, we must provide general documentation about the location of fishing grounds. Through the public planning process, protective lines will then be drawn around fishing grounds to steer offshore development away from them.”

The pilot mapping effort of commercial fishing grounds led by Ecotrust in partnership with OCZMA gained grudging acceptance by the commercial fishermen.

Husing dubbed the effort with the Southern Oregon Ocean Resource Coalition (SOORC) in the Coos Bay area “a success.” SOORC worked with Ecotrust to arrange interviews with 75 commercial fishermen, nine charter operators, and 39 local recreational fishermen. From the information gleaned, they developed an aggregate map of fishing grounds - a map to use to provide Goal 19 protection for those grounds.

Husing said they are doing the same for commercial fishing in other coastal communities. Now they want to turn their attention to the recreational interests.

Building trust

Getting fishermen to disclose proprietary information on fishing ground locations - even in a general sense - is at best a difficult task.

But protecting prime fishing areas from encroachment by wave energy facilities and other proposed new ocean uses, while maintaining the confidentiality of the needed information, is at the heart of the spatial mapping effort. And it’s all part of the larger attempt to revise Oregon’s TSP.

In an ever-evolving ocean use climate, doing what it takes to develop an ocean plan to handle the demands of competing uses is vital, said Husing.

OCZMA administered the SOORC project under a contract with the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD). Ecotrust conducted confidential interviews with fishermen - facilitated through SOORC - with careful attention to data security. Husing said OCZMA is working with SOORC and Lincoln County’s Fishermen Involved in Natural Energy (FINE) group “to determine what level of aggregate fishing grounds information” to release to the public and the state’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC), which simultaneously prepared the amendment to the TSP through its TSP Working Group.

“The data collected by state and federal agencies through commercial fisheries licensing and regulation, while useful, is neither adequate nor specific enough to provide a comprehensive map of fishing effort,” Paul Klarin, marine program coordinator in the DLCD Coastal Division, noted prior to the launch of the SOORC pilot effort. “The data must be collected with the direct contribution of the commercial and sport fishing community members.”

That, Husing noted, is what the SOORC-supported pilot study did, along with showing that it could divulge just enough information to simultaneously protect fishing grounds and fishermen’s confidentiality.

Lingering doubts

The same questions and concerns about the process and protection of proprietary information that had many folks holding back before they decided if and how to wade into the endeavor on the commercial end are again emerging from the recreational end.

Husing’s announcement of the recreational survey drew questions about funding sources, use of the information, privacy issues, and other concerns.

John Holloway from the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) and Oregon Anglers asked about disclosure of funding sources. Husing said the $100,000 effort draws about half of its funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) passed through DLCD in a $52,000 contract with OCZMA, minus a $2,000 administrative fee. The other half derives from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation awarded to Ecotrust.

“In a perfect world, we would have funding sources to do ocean planning from the state,” said Husing. “That’s not going to happen.”

Fishing groups aren’t likely to provide funding, either, he added. The alternative, however, is having incomplete information about recreational fishing grounds and the contributions recreational fishermen make to the coastal economy.

Still, trust is difficult to achieve, given prior experience with foundation funding “that had the look and feel of political campaigns” on the West Coast during the past few years. The state’s initial mishandling of the marine reserves issues added to it.

“Trust must be earned,” Holloway said.

Husing agreed, but said exchanges of views and information could lead to good things such as funding for collaborative research on Oregon’s ocean. And wave energy is already here. Keeping buoys out of prime fishing grounds is vital.

“I hope we can, together, write a new chapter in the book about how Oregonians deal with the ocean and each other,” he concluded.

The survey

Recreational fishermen who want to participate can fill out the survey at http://oregonfishing.ecotrust.org.

To find out more about the process, go to www.ecotrust.org/tsp, or contact Chen at cchen@ecotrust.org, or 503-467-0812.

Terry Dillman is the assistant editor of the News-Times. Contact him at (541) 265-8571, ext 225, or terrydillman@newportnewstimes.com.

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