For nearly 100 years wild salmon populations along the Elwha River, located at the heart of Olympic National Park, have been limited to a five-mile stretch of the 45 mile-long river below the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams. In September 2011 engineers began the Nation’s second largest ecological restoration project; a three-year dam removal process, allowing wild salmon and other anadromous fish populations to return to the upper channels and tributaries of the river. But how effective will these restoration efforts be, and how do we measure success? Kinsey Frick, George Pess, and John McMillan, scientists from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Washington, in partnership with other federal, state and tribal organizations in the region are working together to find answers to these important questions. Their research will not only help us understand the impacts of dam removal on wild salmon populations and ecosystems in the Elwha and allow managers to manage the recovering system adaptively, but also help inform future river restoration projects throughout the country.
By Alan Lovewell – WCGA Sea Grant Fellow
A few weeks ago I was fortunate to be invited to take meeting notes for two focus group meetings in Oakland at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Services Center lead by Jenna Borberg and Carrie Pomeroy from Oregon and California Sea Grant respectively. These focus groups were assembled to assess NOAA’s knowledge, capacity and needs for involving stakeholders in the regional Coastal Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP) process and contribute to developing a framework for improving stakeholder involvement. This project will also help inform NOAA’s coordination and collaboration on CMSP with partners (e.g., federal and state agencies, regional and local entities, and tribes).
As a note taker and observer at two of these meetings I was anxious to hear an update on CMSP, what was happening at the National level, and what the various corners of NOAA think about its utility, development, and challenges. And more than anything I was interested in hearing first hand how participants are currently succeeding or struggling to accomplish their management objectives and goals.
This was the first of 9 focus group meetings that are being held in Oregon, California, and Washington. Participants from NOAA’s extended family (defined as entities that rely on NOAA for base funding) included:
- NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service(NMFS), National Weather Service (NWS), Oceanic Atmospheric Research(OAR)
- NOAA Coastal Services Center
- National Estuarine Research Reserve System
- National Marine Sanctuaries
- California, University of Southern California, Oregon, and Washington Sea Grant Programs
- Integrated Ocean Observing System
- Cooperative/Joint Institutes
- Pacific Fishery Management Council (employees)
- State Coastal Zone Management agencies
The diversity of representation is intended to provide a range of feedback on the issues marine resource managers are currently addressing including: who and how they define their stakeholders and partners; how they effectively engage and communicate with stakeholders; and how they communicate and coordinate within the NOAA extended family.
Principal investigators for this study are: Dr. Stephen Brandt, Director, Oregon Sea Grant; and Dr. John Stein, Director, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, co-lead for NOAA’s Western Regional Collaboration Team, and member of the West Coast Governors Alliance (WCGA) Executive Committee and Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) Work Group. The information gathered from these focus groups will inform the next phase of the study, which includes a survey of the larger West Coast NOAA workforce and extended family.
Here are a few of my key takeaway points from these conversations:
- Meaningful engagement with stakeholders is essential to the success of most management processes or actions.
- In one form or another, we are all stakeholders dependent on the health of our oceans. The more we connect and value the ecosystem and the resources it provides us, the more we’ll feel invested in the oceans long-term health.
- Stakeholders and partners often vary between agencies, projects, and issues.
- The success and failure of CMSP depends on everyone’s commitment to welcome all perspectives at the table to have discussions and talk about management options.
- The status and progress of CMSP and why we should manage our waters as a public trust, should be communicated within and outside of NOAA on a regular basis.
I’m sure a lot of individuals, myself included, will be looking forward to project outcomes. The WCGA IEA Workgroup is one team within the WCGA that will find this information useful as we continue planning our regional scoping strategy for the US West Coast.
I just finished reading through the National Ocean Council’s (NOC) newly released National Ocean Policy (NOP) Implementation Plan. The NOP Implementation Plan provides a road-map for how federal agencies will implement President Obama’s 2010 Nation Ocean Policy from Executive Order 13547 and focuses on nine priority areas:
- Ecosystem-Based Management
- Inform Decisions and Improve Understanding
- Observations, Mapping, and Infrastructure
- Coordinate and Support
- Regional Ecosystem Protection and Restoration
- Resiliency and Adaptation to Climate Change and Ocean Acidification
- Water Quality and Sustainable Practices on Land
- Changing Conditions in the Arctic
- Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning
The West Coast Governors Alliance on Ocean Health is the in the process of assembling their comments on the Implementation Plan, and I’m excited to be helping to write these comments. It’s gratifying to see that many of our comments on the draft Strategic Action Plan outlines released in June 2011 were taken into consideration and incorporated. For example, in the original Strategic Action Plan for the priority Regional Ecosystem Protection and Restoration in Action 6: reduce the threat of marine invasive species, the only invasive species to be considered was the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish. To be sure, lionfish have invaded and become established along the Southeast United States and the Caribbean, and these fish are a huge problem in this area. However, each region of the United States has its own invasive species problems, and the WCGA commented that if the NOC was going to choose focal species, they should choose one for each of the nine regions. Here on the West Coast, the WCGA has chosen to focus on invasive Spartina, a cordgrass that has invaded numerous large estuaries on the West Coast, but we acknowledge that there are other invasive species on our coasts as well. Now, in the NOP Implementation Plan, the Action to ‘locate, control, and, where possible, eradicate invasive species populations’ is written to include all regions of the United States rather than focusing solely on the invasive lionfish in the Southeast.
I think that the the NOP has done a great job addressing comments they received from the WCGA and other respondents but, there is still room for improvement. I’m glad that the NOC incorporated our comments to not focus on a single invasive species. However, it might be useful for this specific action to think about preventing introductions as well as controlling them. The WCGA would like the NOC to consider efforts to prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species, such as by supporting ballast water treatments and addressing hull fouling and the trade of live organisms (a largely unmanaged vector). No one knows the exact source of the lionfish invasion, but the data suggest that the it may have been introduced through the aquarium trade. Putting some energy into outreach and education could save a lot of time, money, and effort in the long run. It’s a lot easier and much less costly to prevent introductions than to clean up the mess once the invasion has been established.
As the WCGA is preparing its own comments on the NOP Implementation Plan, you can also share your perspective with the National Ocean Council. When the Strategic Action Plan outline came out in June 2011, the NOC conducted listening sessions throughout all the regions of the United States. I attended the listening session in San Francisco and had the opportunity to hear public comments regarding two priority areas— Ecosystem-Based Management and Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning. It seems to me that the NOC takes comments from the public seriously. During the Ecosystem-Based Management session, I heard more than one person comment that they wanted the Implementation Plan to reflect the definition of Ecosystem-Based Management supported through a consensus statement signed by over 200 highly regarded academic scientists. The new Implementation Draft now reflects that definition and reads:
EBM is as an integrated approach to resource management that considers the entire ecosystem, including humans and that the goal of EBM is to maintain an ecosystem in a healthy, productive, and resilient condition so that it can provide the services humans want and need.
McLeod et al. 2005
The NOC is asking for public comments on the Implementation Plan by midnight February 27th. You can read the Implementation Plan here. The NOC has a web-based platform where you can type your comments in directly or even upload attachments if your comments are lengthy.
Specifically, the NOC is interested to hear your comments on:
- Does the draft Implementation Plan reflect actions you see are needed to address the nine priorities for the ocean, coasts, and the Great Lakes?
- What is the most effective way to measure outcomes and to detect whether a particular action in the Implementation Plan has achieved its intended outcome? Would a report card format be useful?
So go read the plans and do your part to help shape the future of our coasts and oceans.
Scientists at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, WA are studying the life in Puget Sound’s surface waters—from microbes to fish and jellyfish— to understand this complex living system and shed light on how human activity affects its health . By understanding what groups of species live where and when and why, we can select measurable characteristics that tell us how the whole ecosystem is doing . This information can then be used by managers to protect and recover the life of Puget Sound. From Spring to Fall 2011, principle investigators Correigh Greene, Casey Rice, Linda Rhodes, and Kurt Fresh, and over 20 other scientists, technicians, and volunteers surveyed more than 80 sites from Commencement Bay in the south to Bellingham Bay in the north and Hood Canal in the west, representing of a range of natural conditions and human influence.
John Hansen, Program Director of the West Coast EBM Network, shares with us his experience at the 2011 West Coast EBM Network annual meeting. Photographs by Alan Lovewell.
The West Coast Ecosystem-Based Management Network (Network) recently held its 2011 Annual Meeting in Eureka, California. The meeting brought together local project staff from 10 West Coast communities, representatives from ocean and coastal nongovernmental organizations (NGO)s, Washington, Oregon, Southern and Central California, and California Sea Grant, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the West Coast Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Health (WCGA), along with a number of local, state and federal staff from the Humboldt Bay area. The meeting took place over two days and included over 60 attendees.
Early portions of the meeting highlighted the latest efforts taking place in coastal communities along the West Coast, including 10 sites ranging from San Diego to the outer coast of Washington State. Project staff presented successful ecosystem-based management approaches driven by strong engagement with local stakeholders, including climate change planning, habitat restoration, and supporting local fisheries and working waterfronts, among other topics. Discussion focused on exchanging local lessons and addressing common challenges, while revealing management experiences for the entire West Coast region.
Following the spotlight on local efforts, presentations were then given by representatives from NOAA and WCGA to provide updates on regional and national-level activities. NOAA staff summarized the latest activities of the National Ocean Council and the preparation for new regional coastal and marine spatial planning frameworks. The WCGA Executive Committee updated the group on the latest regional issues along the West Coast, and efforts of WCGA related to broader national-level planning and CMSP. Finally, the four WCGA Fellows provided a briefing on their respective work plans and ongoing activities related to integrated ecosystem assessments (IEAs), climate change and sustainable communities, regional research planning, and a West Coast regional data sharing framework.
Throughout the meeting, the overlaps between the activities of the West Coast EBM Network and WCGA’s priorities were clearly apparent. Many local communities throughout the West Coast are directly addressing pressing issues facing their local ecosystems and stakeholders, including preparing for climate change and supporting working waterfronts and local fishing fleets. These align with the broader goals of WCGA Action Plan and the efforts of the WCGA Action Coordination Teams (ACTs) throughout the three West Coast states. The activities and expertise housed in the WCGA ACTs were of great interest to the community-level projects at the meeting, and discussions centered on how a stronger connection could be made between the regional ACTs and staff supporting local-level efforts along the coast.
On a broader level, the other key lesson taken away from the meeting was the valuable opportunity to grow a mutually beneficial relationship between regional efforts like WCGA and coastal communities. The WCGA is working towards successful regional approaches throughout the coast, and linking members of their ACTs, on topics that align well with EBM approaches at the local level. Concurrently, the West Coast EBM Network is working to link coastal communities and successful on-the-ground outcomes, all of which could greatly benefit from a stronger relationship with the WCGA. Further, local projects may serve as the ideal foundation for regional WCGA efforts, and illustrate the value of enhanced collaboration and planning along the coast through tangible benefits to local stakeholders and communities.
The West Coast EBM Network looks forward to continued collaboration with WCGA, including its Executive Committee, ACTs, and Sea Grant Fellows, to highlight the value of this innovative partnership and leverage the benefits to active coastal communities throughout the region.
For more information on the West Coast EBM Network, please visit www.westcoastebm.org.