In 2012, the answers to all our wonders and perplexities are but an Internet search away. This isn’t a sudden development, as you all know, and you would probably stake your GPA on that. Because the right information is so accessible, it seems strange that so often we see people choosing to do the wrong things. Why are people malnourished or overweight? Why do people still use water bottles and not recycle? Is it too much work to do the right thing? Does the cost outweigh the benefit? It’s important to note that not all people let the right thing slip away, and these people are modern-day heroes.
What if I told you there was a way to better nourish the public, preserve marine ecosystems, reduce carbon emissions, and create economic stability just by doing the right thing? Maybe you wouldn’t believe me. Maybe the words “people,” “planet,” and “profit” don’t inherently seem like they should go together. The folks at Port Orford Sustainable Seafood don’t feel that way.
Port Orford is a small fishing community with a population of just 1,100. Located on the southern Oregon coast, the economic contribution that fishing has on the town is thethird largest in the state, as Port Orford boasts the most fishing households of any town in the state. In 2005 an estimated 100 to 150 people were directly involved in the port’s fishing industry. That makes 10 to 15 percent of the entire population directly involved with pulling fish from the ocean and delivering it to local communities within Oregon. It is safe to say that to the folks in Port Orford, particularly in times of economic turmoil, financial livelihood is staked on the health of the ocean.
It is for this reason that in 2009 the non-profit organization Port Orford Ocean Resource Team (POORT) was created.
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POORT’s main goal is to ensure the stability and sustainability of their local marine resources, in turn creating economic stability for their community. The group has been working towards this goal for the better part of a decade now, but had no official title until three years ago. The hard work POORT has put in has not gone to waste, however. By combining local expertise with science and leaders in sustainable thinking, cornerstone projects have come to fruition such as the hard fight for marine reserve, the Port Orford Community Stewardship Area.
Marine reserves are areas where fishing is off limits or restricted. The Port Orford Community Stewardship Area is a reserve in which POORT helped get inactivated. All fishing is restricted within a mile and a half of shore along a two-mile stretch of coast. Salmon and crab boats, some of the most profitable catches, can fish in close proximity to the reserve, however rockfish is still protected in areas surrounding the stewardship area.
Recent data has shown that fish numbers have increased since the reserve has been open. If fish populations can stay constant, or even increase, this keeps the likelihood of overfishing down, even as more and more fisherman come to fish. This allows for the economic stability that POORT is so fond of. Marine reserves also tend to attract marine researchers. The end goal is for a research and visitor center to be built by the reserve, increasing tourism and general interest in the area.
The battle for the reserve was not easily. Not all fishermen agreed on the original proposed locations, and some did not even want a reserve at all. In times of economic difficulty, long-term stability is not typically put over short term.
Our oceans are natural resources that are pivotal to the existence of our lives as we know it. The ecosystem services that the food, mineral resources, genetic resources, drug research, climate regulation, recreation, and last but certainly not least, spiritual enrichment. Ecosystem management is key to modern human progress, and each community is going to face its own set of challenges posed by tailoring practices to preserve its proximate resources. The story of POORT, and what the organization has done and will do for Port Orford should stand as an inspiration for what can be accomplished with hard word, determination, and the golden word: compromise.