and Leesa Cobb

and Leesa Cobb

The community of Port Orford is living proof that economic stability and ecological sustainably can and should go hand in hand.

A small fishing town on Oregon's rural south coast, Port Orford relies heavily on its marine resources. This forward-thinking community is working hard to ensure that they can continue to sustainably harvest seafood for generations to come. Part of Port Orford's long-term success depends on Congress and the White House funding a National Ocean Policy that builds on our local leadership.

In 2000, the Port Orford fishing community — knowing that they wanted to have a voice in their own future — came together and began a difficult conversation about how to preserve their way of life so that future generations could fish as their grandparents had. Their answer was a Community Stewardship Area; a bottom-up, common-sense approach to ocean planning and fishery management established to protect critical fish breeding and feeding grounds. The Community Stewardship Area helps to ensure that local fisheries are ecologically sustainable and economically viable. Today, Port Orford's sustainable fishery provides the Rogue Valley's farmer's markets and restaurants with Port Orford Sustainable Seafood.

The success of Port Orford's Stewardship Area helped nudge along Oregon's locally driven process for establishing a limited network of marine reserves and marine protected areas in the waters near our shore. Port Orford fishermen proposed the Redfish Rocks area as a site for a marine reserve and marine protected area. After a long and involved public process, the state designated Redfish Rocks as one of Oregon's first marine reserves in 2009.

Port Orford's story is a shining example of how homegrown solutions are often the best ones. Oregon's locally driven, collaborative ocean planning has made us a leader in smart ocean management. Oregon was the first state to create an ocean management plan and now boasts a comprehensive Territorial Sea Plan.

These efforts should be commended, but local and state initiatives alone are not enough to ensure our nation's ocean resources can sustain future generations. To truly turn the tide, we need broad coordination and shared resources. That is why the National Ocean Policy is so vital.

The National Ocean Policy, a process initiated by President Bush and then adopted by President Obama in July 2010, is founded on the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission. It was developed through a lengthy process of stakeholder and public engagement.

The National Ocean Policy's vision is the vision of Port Orford, "to achieve an America whose stewardship ensures that the ocean, our coasts and the Great Lakes are healthy and resilient, safe and productive, and understood and treasured so as to promote well-being, prosperity and security of present and future generations." The core approach is to improve marine stewardship by directing government agencies with differing mandates to work together better.

The National Ocean Policy is a framework built on local initiatives such as the Port Orford Stewardship Area, state-based efforts such as Oregon's Territorial Sea Plan and regional efforts such as the West Coast Governors Alliance on Ocean Health. With this national policy as a complement to strong local efforts, Oregon is in a unique position to be a national leader for ocean stewardship.

A strong National Ocean Policy is needed to make continued progress. For the sake of our oceans, our communities, and our future, we call on Congress to fully fund the National Ocean Policy.

Cylvia Hayes is first lady of Oregon and is championing ocean health issues. Leesa Cobb is the executive director of Port Orford Ocean Resource Team, a community fisheries project directed by a board of commercial fishermen, and recipient of NOAA's 2010-2011 Award of Excellence for Organization of the Year.