WEATHER IN LINCOLN COUNTY

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Local commercial and recreational fishermen are concerned about amount of sea bed that wave energy developers want set aside for their exclusive use

Oregon Shoreline, Cannon Beach to Curry County
Purple areas likely off-limits to fishing
Yellow line is three mile limit
Does not show additional “marine reserves” or “protected” areas scheduled for withdrawal from fishing
Click photos to enlarge

A compilation of information in the ‘under-construction’ Oregon Territorial Sea Plan (TSP) shows what some are calling a disturbing trend that could lead to major damage to Oregon’s commercial and recreation fishing industry.

A preliminary mark-up of areas the wave energy industry wants transformed from fishing areas to wave energy “parks,” has caught the eye of Lincoln County’s “Fishermen Involved in Natural Energy,” (FINE). FINE is a group of commercial and charter fishing operations that fish not just off Newport but the entire Oregon Coast. In a meeting this week at the Lincoln County Courthouse, fishermen said from the looks of a proposed Territorial Sea Plan wave energy map, huge swaths of prime fishing areas, especially for Dungeness Crab, could be withdrawn from commercial and recreational fishing. It could also withdraw areas off Waldport traditionally used by Native Americans for cultural and spiritual activities. Clarification: Native American use rather than Native American fishery.

FINE said a designated commercial wave energy site off Yaquina Head (Newport) should not be approved, but rather reserved strictly as a wave energy device “testing only” site.

FINE said that Lincoln County’s shoreline, over the past several years, has already lost a significant percentage of its near-shore fishing grounds to “marine reserves” and other “protected” areas. FINE said those advocating more withdrawals must take into account the potential loss of all those fish producing areas. They claim that continued sustainable food production, in the long run, could produce far more public benefit than electricity generation, not only in the seafood produced but in jobs created, especially family wage jobs.

FINE also asked that state planners honor Goal 19 in Oregon’s Land Conservation and Development statutes which state in part:

We should protect important marine habitat, including estuarine habitat, which are areas and associated biologic communities that are:

a) important to the biological viability of commercially or recreationally caught species or that support important food or prey species for commercially or recreationally caught species;

4. areas important to fisheries, which are:
a) areas of high catch (e.g., high total pounds landed and high value of landed catch); or
b) areas where highly valued fish are caught even if in low abundance or by few fishers; or
c) areas that are important on a seasonal basis; or
d) areas important to commercial or recreational fishing activities, including those of individual ports or particular fleets; or
e) habitat areas that support food or prey species important to commercially and recreationally caught fish and shellfish species.

FINE said any effort to seek any energy-related exemptions from Goal 19 should be denied.

In addition to their concerns about near-shore wave energy set-asides, FINE members said it is time for Oregon state officials to work more closely with their federal counterparts as they develop federal plans to explore offshore energy generating devices (windmills) which could have similar detrimental effects on the fishing and recreation industries, in addition to visual blight. FINE strongly urges that state officials implore their federal counter-parts who are planning out to the U.S. 200 mile limit, that they promote strong public outreach in mapping what might be expected to be wind energy industry uses of those waters.

FINE members also contend that the decision making process appears to be in a “hurry up” mode that outstrips the publics’ ability to understand the details of what’s going on with Oregon’s Territorial Sea areas, what’s at stake, and how things might turn out. County Commissioner Terry Thompson said although all this is preliminary, he has grave concerns of what it might mean for Oregon’s coastal economy if commercial and recreational fishing is crowded out of prime fishing areas. Thompson says adopting these maps, to include a Territorial Sea Plan Amendment Timeline, appears set for late January, a far too ambitious timeline.

Here is a brief synopsis from the Oregon Employment Department on Oregon Coast fisheries’ contribution to the Oregon coast economy:

“In 2011, Oregon’s commercial fishing industry hauled in the most revenue since 1988. Total landed value boomed to about $148 million, up from a very good $108 million the year before. The value of the salmon and sardine harvests did drop, but this was more than offset by increases in revenue from Dungeness crab, tuna, groundfish and, especially, pink shrimp and whiting – whiting is used to make artificial crab meat.

Crab harvests in 2011 were over 17 million pounds and prices remained around the $2.50 per pound mark, allowing the fleet to land nearly $45 million worth of crab – a better-than-average harvest. The crab harvest was worth about $33 million in 2010. Dungeness crab remains Oregon’s most valuable fishery.”

FINE members contend these figures more than prove that fishing’s contribution to the Oregon Coast economy is quite substantial and should not be harmed by a rush to what many fear could be a transfer of offshore resources from fishing to energy development, a move that could seriously harm the coast’s economy. They say there should be no intended, or even unintended “industry substitution” off the Oregon Coast, especially, they say, when wave energy device testing has not yet begun to certify that such devices are even economically viable. FINE says that providing wave and wind energy may be so costly that a continuous flow of federal and state subsidies may be required to ensure enough profit to attract private investors.

FINE urges the public study-up on the issue and then to contact their state lawmakers (and candidates) to express their interest in learning more about offshore wave and wind energy. They should also express any concerns they have that the process be made fully open and on a timeline that ensures broad public education and involvement. FINE says final action scheduled for this January is simply deciding too much too fast.

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