Groundbreaking Film Stirs Debate About Ocean Management

The groundbreaking documentary "Common Ground: Oregon's Ocean" will be presented Tuesday, March 6, at 6:30 p.m. in Smith Auditorium at Willamette University.

The free 30-minute film features stunning views of Oregon's underwater world and presents solutions, backed by commercial fishermen and scientists, for restoring the state's ocean ecosystems. Secretary of State Bill Bradbury will moderate a question-and-answer session between the audience and fishermen, scientists, policy makers and conservationists.

"Common Ground" has drawn overflow crowds throughout the state, having been released just as the push for offshore fish farms and drilling has accelerated and as the largest fisheries closure in the nation's history has been implemented along the West Coast.

The Pew Oceans Commission and U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy reports have highlighted the alarming health of the world's oceans.

"Coastal development, unsustainable fishing practices and the loss of habitat and biodiversity threaten our coastal waters," said Willamette biology Professor Ben Crabtree. "The fisheries closure off our coast threatens the economy of coastal communities and raises critical concerns about the health of our waters."

According to Gov. Ted Kulongoski, "'Common Ground' is a useful tool in stimulating long overdue discussions about marine protection in Oregon."

Commercial fishermen say the documentary is a must-see cautionary tale.

"Advances in technology have allowed us to aggressively target fish that were ignored before, or that were barely fished for years and years," said Jeff Feldner, a Newport, Ore., commercial fisherman since 1972. "All of a sudden there's this goldmine to be exploited, and our nature is to go and do that. We must now do a course correction. Our ability to properly manage those species must catch up with our ability to catch them."

"If we want to have healthy fisheries and coastal communities we absolutely must have healthy marine ecosystems," said Jane Lubchenco, a marine biologist at Oregon State University who served on the Pew Oceans Commission.

"It's appropriate for Oregonians to learn about reserves and talk about them quite seriously," she said.

Question-and-answer panel members include Carolyn Waldron, director of Oregon Ocean; Jane Lubchenco, Oregon State University; Leesa Cobb, Port Orford Ocean Resource Team; Terry Thompson, Lincoln County Commissioner; and a member of the State Legislature's Joint Committee on Ocean Preparedness and Ocean Policy.

The event is sponsored by Willamette University and Green Fire Productions. For information call 503-370-6474 or visit