(Newport, Ore.- August 7, 2023) – A new survey shows that coastal Oregon’s recreational industry joins more conventional, store-front businesses in believing the state’s Marine Reserves do not negatively impact their bottom lines, continuing a vast shift in what businesses feared just before the first reserves were established more than a decade ago.
Sea & Shores Solutions this month concluded a business survey funded by the Marine Reserves Program, and the conclusions show that today’s opinions about the financial impacts among coastal recreation business owners contrast greatly to overall expectations just before Oregon’s first reserves went on line in 2012.
Its series of mail and telephone interviews show that 18 percent of smaller recreation-based coastal companies surveyed reported an increase in their business because of marine reserves. That differs from a 2011 survey that showed two-thirds of coastal businesses expected decreases in their businesses once the first two marine reserves were established the following year.
No owners who took part in the survey reported negative impacts to their businesses because of the reserves, and 59 percent reported no change.
Based on state mandates that created the marine reserves program, the reserves’ Human Dimensions Project has studied the real and perceived impacts the program has on coastal businesses. But the previous three surveys done between 2010 and 2021 focused on physical brick-and-mortar businesses in main business districts.
This new survey reached out to businesses without storefronts and/or in out-of-the-way locations. They included small-scale tourism services, some guides, ecotours and several kayak rental businesses. None were specifically targeted in past studies.
“The goal of this study is to fill that gap,” said Adrian Laufer, CEO and co-founder of the Salem-based Sea & Shore Solutions.
Past surveys on storefront business owners have indicated that the perception that marine reserves hurt their bottom lines has steadily dropped. Now 98.6 percent of businesses do not see the marine reserves as economic threats.
Sea & Shore Solutions solicited information from 34 recreational businesses for this study, and half responded. While the survey size may appear small, it hit a large component of that industry, Laufer said.
In all, 82 percent of the business owners surveyed were aware of the Marine Reserves.
The survey results also reveal an apparent shift in what business owners perceive as motivations of travelers to the Oregon Coast.
Business owners who perceived fishing as a travel motive dropped from 10 percent in 2010 to 6 percent in 2022, the survey concludes. Business owners who perceived non-fishing outdoor connections like visiting beaches and scenic attractions as a motive rose from 7 percent in 2010 to 14 percent in 2022.
Enacted by the Oregon Legislature in 2009, the Marine Reserves Program includes five actual marine reserves and nine protected areas that together cover nine percent of Oregon’s near-shore ocean waters.
The reserves, where no plants or animals can be removed and where development is banned, are underwater listening stations tracking ocean changes including fish, invertebrate and algal communities.
It is the first long-term nearshore ocean conservation and monitoring program run by the state of Oregon and includes cutting-edge research on the economic, social and cultural dynamics of the Oregon coast and coastal communities. The program is funded through state general fund dollars and not sport or commercial fishing fees.