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Funded Research Projects
Assessing Marine Reserves

In 2012, the state of Oregon created five marine reserves and designated nine adjacent marine protected areas. It mandated an independent assessment of the program in 2023. The Trust helped coordinate and solicit $156,000 for the marine reserves assessment. In 2021, funds were awarded to Oregon State University lead researched Dr. Wilson White to complete an independent, peer reviewed assessment

of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Marine Reserves Program Synthesis Report, 2009-2021.

The independent review includes an assessment of the social, economic, and environmental factors related the reserves and protected areas, recommendations for actions and legislative proposals related to the reserves and protected areas, and other scientifically-based information related to the reserves and protected areas that Oregon State University deems relevant, or material. The report is intended to:

  • Determine If Oregon's marine reserves and associated marine protected areas were effectively designed and implemented to achieve the goals set forth in OPAC's 2008 Oregon Marine Reserve Policy Recommendations.

  • Determine if the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife successfully executed the legislative mandates regarding marine reserve implementation.

The 2022 Assessment of Oregon's Marine Reserves had the following key findings and recommendations:

Key Findings

  • Oregon’s marine reserves were, in general, effectively designed and implemented to achieve the goals and objectives set forth in legislation and OPAC recommendations.

    • It is too soon to evaluate whether some ecological goals will be met, such as whether the reserves can promote ecological resilience. Ongoing monitoring and research are needed to evaluate those goals.

    • Monitoring of social and economic effects revealed positive and adverse impacts that varied by location and social group. Adverse impacts were unevenly distributed. Overall, fewer and less extreme adverse impacts were recorded than might have been expected. More adequately evaluating socioeconomic impacts will require developing and monitoring clearly defined social and economic indicators.

    • Lessons learned over 10 years of the Marine Reserve Program (including evaluations such as this report) provide the feedback needed to:

      • Move into a phase of consistent long-term marine reserve monitoring and research.

      • Support Oregon in evaluating and potentially adjusting its marine reserve system moving forward in an adaptive management process.

Key Recommendations

1. To support the legislated goals of conserving biodiversity while avoiding adverse socioeconomic impacts, the Oregon Legislature should consider these actions:

a. Appropriate funds to allow ODFW to continue the Marine Reserves Program at the necessary capacity. This includes funding for new human resources and programmatic activities, including: management, policy, and program administration; ecological monitoring; human dimensions monitoring; and outreach and community engagement.

b. Provide a mandate that supports the development of an Adaptive Management plan (as described below) for the ongoing management and evaluation of the marine reserves program.

c. Define a detailed collaborative process through which social monitoring data can be interpreted to affect policy decisions. This process should include steps for decision making, conflict management, and clarity on who the state of Oregon is concerned with impacting (through the Marine Reserve Program), and in what ways. The Magnuson Stevens Act could serve as an example for describing such a process.

2. To fulfill the goals of conserving marine habitats and biodiversity while avoiding adverse socioeconomic impacts, ODFW should develop an adaptive management plan for the Oregon Marine Reserve Program that includes clear objectives, defined decision-making criteria and timelines, and stakeholder engagement processes. This will require ODFW to:

a. Develop specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-oriented objectives for ecological and socioeconomic monitoring and research, including a timeline for adaptive decision-making.

b. Develop consistent measurable indicators of social impacts.  

c. Implement efficient and consistent ecological sampling protocols.

d. Assess the capacity for the marine reserves to enhance ecological resilience to environmental disturbances. This requires longer time-series of data and evaluation of how well the reserves operate as a network.

e. Develop defined goals for outreach and engagement, including with Tribes, and undertake assessments to evaluate the effectiveness in achieving these goals.  


The adaptive management plan should include criteria for determining whether modifying existing reserve boundaries or the number of marine reserves and marine protected areas is needed to meet legislative objectives. The plan should include details for a community-engaged process for planning and implementing any changes

Oregon's 5 marine reserves
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