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Updated 11:00am - Nov 26, 2014

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Oregon urged to form marine reserves

The Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. – A scientist and a conservationist urged Oregon legislators to create marine reserves along the coast to revive .

But commercial fishing interests said the stocks are not in such bad shape as thought, and sport anglers urged more research.

Jane Lubchenco, a marine scientist at Oregon State University, told members of a committee on ocean policy Tuesday that three studies show fishing has depleted 90 percent of all big fish and 25 percent of the world's fisheries.

"Technology has allowed us to fish farther and farther from shore, deeper and deeper, more efficiently, more safely and in formerly inaccessible places," she said.

She said marine reserves allow fish to get bigger and reproduce more.

Commercial fisherman Terry Thompson, a Lincoln County commissioner and former legislator, pointed to some rebounding rockfish populations off Oregon's coast.

Much of the perceived problem, he said, is related to how fish stocks are assessed, using models that can vary wildly.

Oregon Anglers, which lobbies for sport-fishing clubs, backed a bill to require that any proposed restrictions go through a public process.

"Our intent is not to eliminate the possibility of marine reserves or that sort of thing," said Dennis Richey of Oregon Anglers. "At the same time, there are many, many areas that need more research."

The group supports a bill introduced by Rep. Deborah Boone, D-Cannon Beach, to map Oregon's ocean floor.

It will take $6 million to $7 million more to finish the work.

, Boone said.

Paul Engelmeyer, statewide conservation representative for the Audubon Society of Portland, called for appropriations for the study and establishment of marine reserves. "We are now at the point of asking what kind of legacy do we want to leave?" he said.

The state's ocean policy advisory council on marine reserves recently submitted a draft plan to the governor's office that would start the process of creating a network of reserves.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski did not set aside money for marine reserves in his budget, which was put together more than a year ago, said natural resources adviser Mike Carrier. But, Carrier said, reserves could protect habitats for sea species as oceans are being affected by climate change.

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