Energy, Environmental, Recreational and Tribal Interests
by Brandon Blakeley
With increasing toxins in fish, depletion of resources, polluted waters and coastal development, the state of the ocean demands attention. That was central to a listening session put on by the National Ocean Council at Portland State University last Friday.
The Obama Administration last year instructed the council to implement the first-ever national ocean policy. Council representatives fielded comments and questions from those interested in the future of our oceans as part of the effort to foster greater understanding and cooperation between local, regional and national groups.
Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and principal member of the NOC, introduced the session. She said the national ocean policy would recognize, expand and enhance efforts Oregon has already started, such as marine reserves. The Portland visit was the last of 12 across the country, which gathered local opinions on the new policy draft.
Speakers agreed that the need is great and that groups must cooperate. But they also had their own interest. About 150 people attended the Portland listening session. Here are a few of their voices:
Tribal leaders weighed in on the condition of oceans and river basins. To Brooklyn Baptiste, a Nez Perce from Lapwai, Idaho, religious and cultural practices center on nature; with every extinct species or dessicated river, "a piece of our faith is eroded." Kathryn Brigham , of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, talked about a time when tribes could drink straight from rivers, but pollution ended that. That needs to change back. "We take care of the land, the land will take care of us," she said.
Pete Stauffer of the Surfrider Foundation, a non-profit environmental group, wants the ocean to stay available for recreational activites such as boating, swimming and surfing. "Until about five years ago, oceans have been mainly open," he said. With the quest of generating renewable energy from the ocean, conflict has arisen. Nascent technologies that generate electricity from ocean waves, tides and currents are bumping into recreational uses. Power generators reduce cost when located near cities -- near the people who want to be out on the water.
Jason Busch, executive director of the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, defended new ocean technologies. Most ocean energy technologies are in their earliest stages of development, and their impact on the ocean-- from size to site -- can't be predicted, he said. Environmentally, the best path for ocean policy is unclear. He urged policy makers to stay flexible.
Some environmental decision have clear economic tradeoffs, said Steve Marx, but simply need a voice. Marx, senior associate of the Pew Charitable Trusts, described an inefficient use of ocean resources. Certain forage species of fish -- sardines and herring, for example -- are harvested for low-economic yield, such as feeding pigs. This restricts their high-value use as prey for salmon and tuna.
The common refrain: Stewardship of the ocean starts at home.
Report: World's Ocean at Risk of Entering Mass Species Extinction Phase by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin, 6/24/11
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