Opportunities for West Coast States to Restore the Health of Our Oceans and Our Economy

Opportunities for West Coast States to Restore the Health of Our Oceans and Our Economy As critical as oceans are to our food supply, our economy and the very functioning of our planet they are not getting sufficient attention or protection. The mounting pressures are global in scope, complicated and urgent.

Any time we’re dealing with a problem of this magnitude I think it’s essential to develop successful solutions that demonstrate alternatives at a scale that can be implemented, highlighted, and then replicated. In many ways, that’s what West Coast states are doing. From California’s marine sanctuaries, Oregon’s territorial sea mapping, and Washington’s commission to address ocean acidification, the west coast states are providing important leadership.

I think we have a tremendous opportunity to show that protecting and restoring the health of our oceans is good for the environment, good for communities, and good for the economy. If we can demonstrate that I think we will have a chance to provide what I call trickle up leadership to other states and beyond.

Interestingly, Governor Kitzhaber and I both, independently, early in our careers, thought we would become marine biologists. Obviously we took different paths, but we both remain extremely interested in and concerned about these issues.

The Kitzhaber Administration is firmly committed to building on our region’s long legacy of leadership and innovation in the protection and restoration of our ocean and coastal environments.

This will require bold leadership and creative thinking because our oceans are facing a whole plethora of emerging challenges including renewable ocean energy; changing fisheries; marine aquaculture; coastal development; ESA listings; tsunami debris; and climate change issues including ocean acidification, increased temperature and hypoxia.

I’ll highlight some of the specific initiatives that we have underway in Oregon. Ed Bowles and Richard Whitman, the Governor’s policy advisors can add details and answer specific questions during the Q&A time.

In Oregon, we’ve focused recently on two examples of coastal and marine spatial planning: marine reserves and renewable ocean energy.

SLIDE: Marine Reserves

I am delighted to report that after a decade of navigating extremely controversial waters, Oregon recently established five new marine reserves! I think for people like Richard and Ed who have been involved for years, sometimes it felt like swimming, sometimes treading water, occasionally going under! But we got it done.

The reserves do not allow extractive activities and are complemented with additional marine protected areas that allow some types of extractive activities, such as salmon trolling and crabbing.

The five sites, distributed along Oregon’s Territorial Sea, have a budget of $800,000 per year, funded primarily through state lottery dollars.

The reserves cover 42 square miles with an additional 27 square miles of complementary protected areas.

I think one of the most important aspects of this story is very relevant to how we successfully move forward with the National Ocean Policy. That is the story of collaboration and communication and really listening to stakeholders. In our marine reserves journey, literally thousands of hours were spent engaging concerned citizens, fishers, local leaders and interest groups.

And that doesn’t stop with the passage of the legislation. Implementation will include continued stakeholder engagement and the use of local resources (fishing vessels, commercial divers, etc.) to aid research.

I’d like to give you just one brief example of how this bottom up and collaborative effort is paying off.

Just a couple weeks ago the Governor and I were in Port Orford to help celebrate the premier of a movie showcasing the community. The movie is called “Ocean Frontiers: The Dawn of a New Era in Ocean Stewardship” by Green Fire Productions. If you haven’t seen it, you really ought to.

Port Orford is a small coastal community that relies on fishing to support nearly half of its economy. That heritage was at risk.

Community and fishing leaders stepped up to form a “ridge to reef” stewardship area and recommended designating Oregon’s first marine reserve and protected area.

SLIDE: Me and John on Tour Boat

This was a very community driven process. While we were down there for the movie premiere, the Governor and I and others on our team went out on one of the local fishing boats to tour the reserve and check out the data collecting buoys. The captain of our boat is a career fisherman and was instrumental in helping identify the appropriate configuration and location for the reserve.

The first recommendations that were made were not enough for some of the local NGO folks who were really pushing for the reserve. They went back and forth, respectfully, since they all live together in this one small community. Eventually this fisherman agreed to give up one of his personal best fishing areas to the reserve.

During the tour he took us to that spot and said, “This was one of my most productive places. It pained me to give it up. It pains me still. But I know it’s the right thing for our future.” It was a memorable experience for me.

My second example of CMSP work in Oregon is ocean energy development. We are currently in the midst of amending Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plan to include consideration of renewable marine energy. This effort also focuses on collaboration among energy developers, fishers, recreationalists, scientists, coastal communities and others to find potential areas to develop that minimize conflict.

Oregon and Washington are collaborating on another interesting challenge and that is the impending tsunami debris clean up. Keith Phillips, advisor to Governor Gregoire, came up with the idea to explore ways to harness the ongoing clean-up effort to raise awareness about ocean issues, particularly marine debris. We’re in the early stages of planning but governors’ offices, including myself and First Gentlemen Gregoire, are working on it. We’ve already begun working with NGOs that implement beach clean ups.

SLIDE Makana and Me

Governor Kitzhaber and I recently met with some California colleagues to explore opportunities for collaboration on this issue. And I recently discussed this issue with First Lady Anne Brown.

I just have to show you this slide because it was such a terrific experience and directly relevant to this topic. This photo was taken at the Monterey Bay aquarium. That is me being absolutely charmed by Makana, the Laysan Albatross. She was injured as a chick and cannot fly and the aquarium took her in. She loves to engage with people. She nibbles your hand and talks. At one point she started bobbing up and down, kind of dancing. I started bobbing up and down with her and her gorgeous eyes just got really bright and engaged and she started making all kinds of noise. I later learned she was doing a mating dance --- which means, inadvertently, so was I!

She now “Works” at the Aquarium educating people about plastics in our oceans. That bottle on the table is filled with plastics that were found in the bellies of Albatross.

The aquarium has a brand new, and really powerful, exhibit of artwork made in the shape of marine animals from plastic found in the ocean. It is beautiful and disturbing. I kept thinking we are replacing the real flesh and blood creatures with our trash.

We are considering having some similar displays from local artists as part of the tsunami debris awareness raising campaign.

I think the tsunami debris rather powerfully makes the point that our oceans connect us all. I’d like to see us elevate that message as we do the work of cleaning up.

My earlier mention of renewable energy is a good segway to what I believe is a tremendous opportunity to gain traction on ocean protection and the National Ocean Policy. My professional work is in clean energy and economic development. As I have begun working on ocean health issues I’ve been surprised by how little we talk about the economic importance of ocean and coastal resources and specifically their importance in the emerging clean economy.

SLIDE: Ocean Economy Numbers

In 2009, ocean-related activities contributed nearly $1.8 billion and 26,700 jobs in Oregon and $7 billion and 103,500 jobs in Washington. Nationally, the ocean economy is valued at $138 billion per year and supports 2.3 million jobs. And those numbers are much, much higher if you include the economic contributions of coastal resources and industries.

I find this next piece fascinating. A team of U.K. scientists led by Andrew Balmford at Cambridge University has analyzed the costs of operating marine reserves on a large scale. They concluded that managing reserves that covered 30 percent of the world's oceans would cost $12-14 billion a year.

But that cost would likely be greatly offset by an increase in oceanic fisheries which are currently valued at about $80 billion per year. The study suggests that we could conserve the seas and their resources in perpetuity, for less than we are now spending on subsidies to exploit them unsustainably.

I think a more compelling message about the economic importance of ocean and coastal resources could be useful. One very specific opportunity lies in highlighting the importance of these resources in the emerging clean economy.

Just a few weeks ago, we were in Vancouver British Columbia, where the Premiere of BC and Governors of Oregon, Washington and California announced a joint resolution to prioritize and accelerate clean economy development.

SLIDE – West Coast Clean Economy

At that time, we unveiled a report with some pretty interesting findings. The study analyzed the clean economy status and potential on the west coast. Bear in mind, this region combined is the 6th largest economy in the world.

The report indicates that the transition toward a cleaner economy is well underway throughout the West Coast region, accounting for a GDP contribution of $47 billion and an estimated 508,400 full time jobs in 2010.

The report analyzes five high growth market opportunity segments:
• Clean Energy Supply,
• Clean Transportation,
• Energy Efficiency & Green Building,
• Environmental Protection & Resource Management,
• Knowledge & Support.

The analysis indicates that from 2010 to 2020, the transition toward a cleaner economy could generate up to 1.03 million net new jobs, a GDP contribution of up to $143 billion, and increased investments of $192 billion.

Essentially, for every one clean economy job in the West Coast region in 2010, an additional two jobs could be created by 2020.

More than 500,000 Pacific Coast residents are cashing clean economy paychecks right now. These sectors are producing jobs faster and pay better than other shrinking sectors of the economy. They also have been more resilient to the recent economic downturn.

And yet, this report does not adequately address clean economy industries such as sustainable fisheries, ocean-related research or eco-tourism.

Given the state of our economy and political focus on jobs growth, I think it’s worth making the case that ocean and coastal resources are a key component of a clean economy that is growing jobs faster and paying better than the conventional economy.

SLIDE: ocean scene

To wrap up, I want to state that I do not believe this Great Global Recession is merely a downturn. I believe it is the cracking of an economic model based on consumption, debt and depletion of our natural capital.

We hear all the time that we need economic recovery, but I think recovery is the wrong goal. Recovery has a ring of going back, of returning to the way things were.

We don’t need recovery. We need economic reinvention.

And innovative re-invention is in our American cultural DNA. We did it in the Industrial Revolution, when we innovated mass production. We did it after the Great Depression when we built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. We did it when we harnessed the creativity of the space race to develop myriad new products and companies.

We can do it now by meeting the tremendous global need for sustainable technologies and practices at a time when the pressure on our natural resources is becoming starkly obvious.

Restoring the health of our oceans is absolutely essential to creating a healthy economy and a stronger nation. The West Coast can ….. and must …. lead in this critical endeavor.

With that I will leave you with a quote from Wallace Stegner, out of “The Sound of Mountain Water.”

Angry as one may be at what heedless men have done and still do to a noble habitat, one cannot be pessimistic about the West. This is still the native home of hope. When it fully learns that cooperation, not rugged individualism is the quality that most characterizes and preserves it, then it will have achieved itself and outlived its origins. Then it has a chance to create a society to match its scenery.

Thank you.

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Cylvia is a speaker, writer and teacher of Economic Evolution.  She is an award winning New Economy leader who is known for speaking truth to power.  

She is faculty in the Sustainability Department, College of Agriculture, Oregon State University and is founder and director of The ReThink.    

She is a smart systems thinker who understands and is able to describe the deeper connections between seemingly unrelated issues. She is also the former First Lady of Oregon.


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