January 1, 2018 marks the Cape Falcon Marine Reserve’s second anniversary. As Oregon’s newest marine reserve, our understanding of this parcel of the ocean is just starting to take shape. The reserve itself is a unique area of natural wonder set aside with the hope of preserving and enhancing the diversity of life within this coastal pocket. Oregon has five such sites managed by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). They collectively act as living laboratories, shedding light on what is happening beneath the waves.
The Cape Falcon Marine Reserve is located just offshore of Oswald West State Park on the northern coast, between Falcon Cove and Manzanita, Oregon. The Cape Falcon site includes a marine reserve, where all removal of marine life and ocean development (e.g. wave energy, pipelines) is prohibited. Adjacent to the marine reserve are two marine protected areas (MPAs). The MPAs prohibit ocean development, but allow some limited fishing activities. ODFW’s marine reserve team was out multiple times this year monitoring the site. “The ecological monitoring team surveyed Cape Falcon and its associated comparison areas in 2017 using three survey methods – scuba diving, video lander, and hook and line.” Reported Dr. Lindsay Aylesworth, Marine Reserves Research Project Leader for ODFW, “We completed 19 dives including 63 habitat surveys, 31 invertebrate transects and three fish transects, along with 54 video lander drops. Our volunteer anglers caught 1,168 fish, comprising 14 species with our eight days of hook and line sampling.” Learn more about ODFW’s marine reserve program, monitoring efforts, and specific site regulations at: oregonmarinereserves.com.
The Friends of Cape Falcon Marine Reserve, a north coast-based volunteer organization, has been assisting ODFW and actively working to promote the reserve. “Folks are always curious if they can recreate in and near this protected area.” informs Chrissy Smith, Outreach Coordinator for the organization, “This is an amazing area full of life, energy and excitement. We want folks to enjoy and appreciate it just like they would a land based park. Please walk the beaches, dip your toes in the marine reserve, surf, build sandcastles, or go explore the tide pools.” The group continues to partner with and benefit from the fiscal sponsorship of the Lower Nehalem Community Trust. If you haven’t yet connected with the Friends, they offer great learning opportunities, co-host stewardship events, guide explorations along the main trails offering vistas of the reserve and more. This year they participated in over 40 events. They also raised funds to translate and print existing marine reserve informational brochures into Spanish.
A goal of marine reserves within Oregon is to fill in our knowledge gaps about the nearshore ocean environment. “This year, the Friends focused on engaging the community in science research and offering opportunities to connect with the ocean,” said Smith, “with the help of partners and dedicated volunteers we have assisted in monitoring seabirds, black oyster catchers, and more.” New to the lineup is a project to monitor ocean chemistry changes in the marine reserve. “Cape Falcon is the fifth marine reserve to join the program. These living laboratories are playing an invaluable role as sentinel sites for detecting and tracking ocean chemistry changes along the coast line of Oregon.” shares Dr. Francis Chan, ocean acidification researcher with Oregon State University. This research is directly supported by the Friends of Cape Falcon Marine Reserve who helped mount the device on a rocky outcrop at Short Sand Beach with Chan and Dick Vander Scaaf of the Nature Conservancy last May. The results have already unveiled an interesting story. Chan notes “We’ve been able to uncover a picture of the geography [of] ocean acidification, where each reserves differ in their level of exposure to low pH waters. Some are real hot spots while others are acting as refuges from water chemistry stress.” In recent years, the impact of ocean acidification, a water quality issue that makes it hard for marine animals for form shell, has become more evident. “This project is really powerful. It is helping us understand how, to what degree and where this issue is impacting our coastline.” added Smith.
What’s next? The Friends are strategizing for next year thanks to continued support from the Lazar Foundation, the Oregon Community Foundation Ocean Conservation Fund, Visit Tillamook Coast and the Economic Development Council of Tillamook County, and ocean-loving supporters within the local community. “2018 is going to be an exciting year. We secured funds to offer our first boat tour of the marine reserve,” states Smith, “and we continue to be an active partner of the Explore Nature series and are already planning our next World Oceans Day and Seabird Science hikes.”
The Friends of Cape Falcon Marine Reserve is always looking for energetic community members to help out on their team. Jeremey Sappington, a local volunteer with the Friends, shares “Over this last year it was great to volunteer my time. I learned more about this area and was able to use it to help others understand and appreciate this unique parcel of ocean. This is a great group for ocean lovers to get involved with. If you are curious about our ocean and what the group is doing to create awareness about its health, stop in at one of our monthly meetings or find us at the markets next year.” The Friends are recruiting volunteers to help monitor seabirds and black oyster catchers, help share at community events, and more. If you are an avid beach walker, the Friends would love to see your pictures and add them to their online archive.
The friends depend on great community partners like the Lower Nehalem Community Trust, North Coast Land Conservancy, Lower Nehalem Watershed Council, and Haystack Rock Awareness Program. We also work with The Nature Conservancy, The Surfrider Foundation, Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition-CoastWatch, Coast Range Association, Audubon Society of Portland, researchers from Oregon State University, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and, of course, local community volunteers.
For information about local marine reserve field trips, lectures, and volunteer opportunities, contact Chrissy Smith, Coordinator of the Friends of Cape Falcon Marine Reserve at 541-231-8041, firstname.lastname@example.org, connect via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CapeFalconMR or Instagram: https.//www.instagram.com/capefalconmr.