Fishing and the Blue Economy – Tillamook County Pioneer


By Rep. David Gomberg, House District 10

Just a few days ago, I participated in a roundtable to examine opportunities and options in blue economy.

According to the World Bank, the blue economy is “the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while maintaining the health of the ocean ecosystem”. Another common definition is “All economic activities related to oceans, seas and coasts”.

For me, the definition is a bit more practical. I spoke about preserving and expanding existing jobs and industries while exploring new opportunities in the coastal ocean and our brackish waterways.

Fishing, recreation and tourism certainly come to mind. But I also mentioned three new opportunities along our coastline:

  • Earlier this month, Astoria hosted the first cruise ship to dock in more than two years. Thousands of visitors spending hundreds of thousands of dollars have provided a much-needed boost to the local tourism economy. The Port of Astoria expects another 21 cruises to dock this season.
  • Further up the coast in Coos Bay, they are also anticipating large commercial vessels arriving in their port. Hundreds of well-paying jobs will result from new contracts to build a shipping container facility. Containers will be unloaded at the facility and transported by rail to the rest of the state and region. Local leaders see this as an opportunity to rebuild the region’s economic base, diversify the economy and create employment opportunities for both the existing workforce and future generations. This will reduce congestion at other container ports along the west coast. The project also has the potential to play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon by eliminating the need to move nearly all materials by truck.
  • Finally, here on the Central Coast, we are wrapping up an $80 million complex to create the only wave energy test site on either coast of the United States. the PacWave Offshore Wave Energy Facility is designed to provide space for developers to test and refine up to 20 wave energy converters at a time, as well as other related technologies. The project will also collect data on local environmental, economic and social effects that could help commercial wave energy developments in the future. The US Department of Energy recently approved $25 million for the site first batch of research projects. Wave energy is an essential part of the strategy to combat the climate crisis.

During the roundtable, I spoke about the importance of the commercial and recreational fishing fleet, and the scientific and research potential of Hatfield, NOAA and PacWave to create well-paying jobs in the region. But I also talked about infrastructure and the challenges of new opportunities. I worked hard to bring money home for water, sewage, ports and roads. “If you can’t get clean water from the tap or send dirty water down the drain,” I said, “you don’t have much economic potential.”

I talked about housing. “New jobs mean nothing if people can’t find housing.” I talked about schools. And I talked about the need for our students to see a sustainable future here at home. “Right now, our biggest export is not seafood or science, but young talent leaving to find jobs.” We need to provide that potential here at home.

Finally, I talked about small businesses. Not everyone has $80 million to build a wave energy complex. But many of us have ideas, innovations and dreams. We must provide the means to turn these dreams into businesses and jobs. This is why I worked to finance and develop our Small Business Development Network to help small businesses with advice, courses and access to the resources they need to succeed.

If we are serious about sustaining our economic present and expanding our economic future, the blue economy gives us a framework and context to do so. You can watch the full presentation of the panel here.

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Oregon’s fisheries are the backbone of our coastal and tourism economies, supporting the jobs families rely on and providing communities across our state and around the world with exceptional products and experiences. Visitors to the Oregon Coast spend approximately one billions of dollars in food and foodservice each year. But we can do a better job selling the products we produce here to visitors. As the local economy rebuilds from COVID-19, our region can get more value from the money visitors spend on food each year by replacing imported ingredients with local produce at restaurants and grocery stores. We can also do a better job of finding new ways to reduce, “recycle” and use waste. This benefits our local residents by improving the availability of fresh, nutrient-dense foods while creating many more well-paying jobs.
Earlier this year, I proposed $1 million in funding for a public-private community partnership to extract more value from Oregon seafood and make it easier to find and buy local produce. The estimated impacts of these investments in Oregon’s coastal land and seafood food system will strengthen support for dozens of small businesses, create or sustain hundreds of paying jobs, ensure a more skilled workforce and result in a more profitable fishing industry.
The strength of our fishing fleets and the potential of the blue economy depend on efficient, functional and secure ports. Like it or not, it often takes money. And so I’ve been working for the past few years to get state funding for a new shipyard in Toledo; grants, dredging and levee repairs in Newport; new docks at Depoe Bay; sewer connections in Toledo; and dredging at Alsea.

I have also worked to ensure the safety of the men and women who work on the water.

Not so long ago, the US Coast Guard offered elimination of air rescue facility at Newport. Many of us in the community responded. Please take a moment to listen to my remarks at a community forum where I called the west coast admiral. “Blind obedience to the wrong orders does not serve the chain of command, the mission, or your uniform well.” I wrote and the Oregon legislature passed HJM 20 urging Congress to fund the Newport Air Station in perpetuity. And ultimately, with the good work of our delegation to the congressrescue helicopters are still based on the central coast.

Click here to see my comments in response to this critical proposal.

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To get in touch with my Legislative Office, please email [email protected]
Later today I am due to meet with the Speaker regarding priorities for the 2023 legislative session. Housing, emergency response and how we use our accommodation taxes to support police and fire protection for residents and visitors are on the list. Tuesday I am co-organizing a legislative visit to the working land and water of Tillamook County. Wednesday I participate in a vision screening program for students at Nestucca Valley School. Thusday I’ll zoom with the Benton County Democrats and attend a concert with Susan at the City of Lincoln Cultural Center. And Saturday I intend to participate in a beach cleaning then join the Earth Day Celebration at Newport City Hall. Sunday we will enjoy a Grand piano dedication concert at the Marine Heritage Center and plan to catch the Surf and Land living room in Lincoln City.

I certainly hope to catch many of you in person as I’m on the go with so much to learn and enjoy here.


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