Conservation Column: Updated Rocky Shores Protection Urgently Needed

Oregon’s rocky coastal shores are not currently receiving sufficient analysis or protection. Oregon Shores and Audubon chapters, along with the other organizations that cooperated to institute Oregon’s marine reserves, share this concern. These groups believe that more up-to-date information is needed to make strategic plans. Specifically, we need well-defined objectives, based on scientific data about marine resources and uses. We also need to address imminent changes to marine ecosystems including warming oceans, ocean acidification, sea level rise, and diseases such as sea star wasting syndrome.

In response to these concerns, the Rocky Shores Management Strategy Chapter in the Territorial Sea Plan is in the process of being updated, and the Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) is seeking comments from the public. It’s been more than 20 years since the Territorial Sea Plan was drafted (1994). We must incorporate current scientific practices to determine the most effective strategy moving forward. Rocky coastal habitats make up 41 percent of Oregon’s 362-mile coastline. These habitats cover a significant area for a diversity of living organisms: sea grasses and kelp, invertebrates (such as anemones, mussels, sea stars), fish, marine mammals, and sea birds (such as cormorants, puffins, and oystercatchers). Protection of habitat will be crucial for these organisms and for the enjoyment of those of us who value spending time on the coast.

Birders, photographers, and tide pool explorers may have valuable information to share with the Council. Your opinion on how the coast should be managed matters. The following contains contact information for submitting comments to OPAC, as well as a link to a survey about what you value: oregonocean.info/index.php/get-involved-rocky-shores-update

Some talking points for communicating with OPAC:

    • We value healthy ecosystems, habitat, and living marine organisms and ask that they be managed for future generations.
    • We ask you to expand the protections at Marine Reserves and Marine Protected Areas to adjacent rocky shore areas and to prohibit harvest in these zones.
    • We encourage limits on harvest, especially commercial harvest of marine organisms.
    • We are concerned about the long-term effects of oil and gas leasing on shore habitat.
    • We recommend restricting public access to Black Oystercatcher nesting territory sites during the breeding season, mid-May to late-August.
    • We ask for colonial nesting seabird sites to receive increased protections, including seasonal boating closure, such as currently occurs near Three Arch Rocks.
    • We promote outreach to plane and drone pilots to curtail low flights during the breeding season.
    • We urge more scientific research, which will help improve conservation strategies, management, and protection of rocky shores’ habitat.
    • We recommend long-term strategies, with a focus on determining which current actions will provide future benefit.


Last month, we got good news when Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to up-list the Marbled Murrelet. This will increase protections for this unique bird that relies on both ocean habitat and old growth forest in Oregon’s coast range. The vote was close and the positive outcome is undoubtedly due to the outpouring of comments from Oregon’s citizens and groups like Audubon chapters around the state. We can work together to achieve another goal. Let’s take a cue from pelicans who swim in cooperative formations while beating their wings in order to herd their prey. So flex your wings, tap your keypad, or write those comments. We have a chance to make more good things happen!