CORVALLIS, OR. – A series of “listening and learning” forums in eight communities up and down the Oregon coast this month will seek to gather a wide range of interests and viewpoints surrounding the issue of marine reserves.

The forums, starting in North Bend on Feb. 18, are being organized by Oregon Sea Grant, a marine research and outreach program based at Oregon State University, at the request of the state's Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC).

As defined by OPAC, marine reserves are areas of the ocean closed to fishing and other extractive activities "in order to conserve marine habitats and biodiversity to provide reference areas for research and monitoring." Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski has asked OPAC to come up with a set of recommendations for establishing fewer “than 10 marine reserves – large enough for scientific testing but small enough to avoid economic or social impacts such as the loss of significant fishing opportunities.”

OPAC members asked Sea Grant to conduct the community outreach process because of the program's 40-year history of engaging with coastal communities on issues as wide-ranging as fisheries management, coastal hazards and regional research planning.

The forums are intended to engage coastal communities and ocean users, share scientific and local knowledge, and show people how they can continue to be involved in the process of nominating potential sites for marine reserves.

Forums will be moderated by Ginny Goblirsch, a long-time Sea Grant Extension agent with both professional and personal background in the fishing community. Goblirsch, who lives in Newport, was brought out of retirement to coordinate the outreach effort.

Scientific background on marine reserves will be presented by Patty Burke, marine resources manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Selina Heppell, a faculty researcher with the OSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Participants will hear “what and why” background about marine reserves, receive copies of material OPAC intends to use to make its recommendations, and meet others with whom they may continue working on the issue after the forums.

Targeted participants include:

• Commercial, charter, and recreational fishermen;

• Seafood industry and fishing support services;

• Port commissioners and managers;

• Community conservation leaders;

• Coastal recreation interests;

• Local government and staff;

• The public at large.

Those planning to attend the two-hour forums are encouraged to prepare in advance by visiting and reading the background documents provided there by OPAC. Print versions of the documents will also be available at the offices of local ports.

To ensure that their knowledge, ideas and perspectives are considered in the decision-making process, participants are also urged to bring written comments to turn in at the forums.

All forums will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the following dates and places:

• Feb. 18: North Bend Community Center, 2222 Broadway, North Bend

• Feb. 20: Garibaldi City Hall, 107 6th St., Garibaldi

• Feb. 21: Newport City Hall, 169 SW Coast Hwy, Newport

• Feb. 22: Florence Events Center, 715 Quince St., Florence

• Feb. 26: Port of Umpqua, 364 N 4th St., Reedsport

• Feb. 27: Chetco Grange Community Center, 97895 Shopping Center Ave, Harbor

• Feb. 28: Port Orford City Hall, 555 W 20th, Port Orford

• Feb. 29: Warrenton Community Center, 170 SW 3rd St, Warrenton

Residents of surrounding communities are encouraged to attend the forum nearest to them.

Sea Grant is under a mid-March OPAC deadline to conduct these and other listening and engagement activities and deliver an interim outreach report to the Kulongoski, OPAC, and state agencies involved in the marine reserves process. One possible outcome could be the formation of local nearshore working groups to further study the issue and, if they choose, nominate areas in their regions as potential marine reserves.

For more information, contact Ginny Goblirsch at 541-737-8002, or by e-mail to

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Ginny Goblirsch,