Oregon Comes In 6th in First-Ever Ranking of States on Ocean Protection

Analysis of Marine Protected Areas Shows That Oregon Can Do Even Better in Protecting Oceans and Marine Wildlife

Environment Oregon

[PORTLAND, OR] –  Oregon ranks sixth in working to protect state ocean waters, according to a report released today by Environment Oregon, the Marine Conservation Institute and Mission Blue.  The SeaStates report is the first national ranking of coastal states’ efforts to protect their ocean waters with ‘no-take’ Marine Protected Areas, the best tool to help oceans thrive.

“Despite the stunning views off of Oregon’s coast and glimpses of whales and sea otters that so many of us love, Oregon is only ranked sixth for ocean protection,” said Sarah Higginbotham, State Director for Environment Oregon.  “While we applaud the great steps Oregon has taken to protect the Pacific in recent years, only 0.31% of our coastal waters are currently protected by no-take marine protected areas.”  

Free from fishing, oil drilling, and other extractive uses, no-take MPAs allow areas to thrive and recover their former abundance and health. As our oceans and coastal areas face the threats of overfishing and water pollution, MPAs deliver important benefits, like preserving the biodiversity and increasing the numbers of fish and wildlife.  

“Comparatively, Oregon has been a leader in ocean conservation, designating six no-take areas and recently approving a territorial sea plan that protects special ecological places while creating opportunities for renewable ocean energy development,” Higginbotham continued. “However, our oceans are in deep trouble. We need to continue taking meaningful steps forward to further increase protections.”

Overfishing, habitat damage and pollution threaten the diversity and productivity of our oceans leading to the rapid loss of marine wildlife including over 40 percent of fisheries which have crashed or are overfished.  Dozens of studies show that no-take MPAs provide important protection not offered by other less strict MPAs, and often provide an overflow of marine life to waters outside their boundaries.

“The good news is that it’s not too late to save our oceans – marine life is resilient,” said Higginbotham. “To safeguard and restore habitat for our marine wildlife, Oregon must continue its leadership in protecting the Pacific.”  

Environment Oregon recommends that we begin by ensuring state leaders fund the implementation of Oregon’s designated marine reserves this legislative session.  

“Whether you love our oceans for their beauty, for fish and marine mammals like whales, or for generating half of the oxygen we breathe, you should want them to be strongly protected. But the SeaStates report shows that very few places are getting the protection they need,” said Dr. Lance Morgan, President of the Marine Conservation Institute. “The majority of coastal states are doing a very poor job of safeguarding their ocean. It’s time for them to preserve their waters with no-take marine protected areas. Marine animals, from seabirds and whales to rockfish, groupers and deep sea corals, need refuges where governments do everything possible to protect them from destruction and pollution.”

The SeaStates report found that 15 coastal states have zero no-take areas. Five states (including Oregon) have less than 1% of their ocean designated as no-take areas. Hawaii is ranked first for ocean protection, with 22.9% no-take area, while California comes in second with 8.7%.

The SeaStates report was compiled by the science team at Marine Conservation Institute using MPAtlas.org – the world’s best information source on marine protected areas.

View report here.


Environment Oregon is a state-based, citizen-funded advocacy organization working towards a cleaner, greener, healthier future.  

The Marine Conservation Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to securing protection for the oceans’ most important places. Founded by marine ecologist, Dr. Elliott Norse, in 1996, we see the big picture and use the latest tools in collaboration with scientists, government officials, businesses and conservation organizations to recover healthy, living oceans around the world for us and future generations.  See www.marine-conservation.org

Mission Blue is a global initiative formed in response to Sylvia Earle’s 2009 TED Prize wish. Dr. Earle urged people “to use all means at your disposal — films, expeditions, the web, new submarines — to create a campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas; Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the blue heart of the planet.”  Currently, the Mission Blue community includes 60+ respected ocean conservation groups and likeminded organizations. See www.mission-blue.org