Redfish Rangers

Finding My Niche Part 2

The local radio station and signs posted throughout Port Orford advertised a volunteer opportunity as a Redfish Ranger… a person outside of the Battle Rock Wayside providing education and outreach about marine reserves, specifically Redfish Rocks, one of the first two reserves in Oregon.

So… of course, I made a phone call and the next thing you know I am attending an all-day training at the Oregon State University Field Station in Port Orford on May 31st.

The Field Station overlooks Battle Rock Beach.

I take a close-up of Battle Rock from the porch of the Field Station. Humbug Mountain rises in the background. The red arrow points to 2 of the 6 rocks that are called Redfish Rocks. (Five emergent rock islands are always visible from shore. The 6th rock is the small shadow to the right of the arrow and is often not visible.)

Why the name Redfish Rocks, you ask? The preponderance of red kelp and the yellow, orange, pink, and red hues of the rockfish species living here cast a red spell on this underwater habitat.

Redfish rocks:

From the docks…

From the overlook at Battle Rock Visitor Center…

From Battle Rock Beach…

Walking south along Battle Rock Beach…

At the mouth of Hubbard Creek…

The Redfish Rangers are a group of trained volunteers who communicate the unique values of the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve to the public and generally engage people on issues of marine conservation in Oregon. Max Beeken of South Coast Applied Ecology secured a grant to educate the public about the ecological, physical, and cultural aspects of theRedfish Rocks Marine Reserve and Marine Protected Area.

Unfortunately Jeannette, the original Volunteer Coordinator, had to step down due to an unexpected illness.

On May 31st I was one of four volunteers who attended the first training session. Sitting next to AJ, she and I became instant friends. She was a docent at the Hughes House and I was interested in becoming one at the Cape Blanco Lighthouse.

On June 29th a second training session was held with Maya Holiman at the helm. Three more volunteers attended.

July 4th was our official kickoff date but AJ and I tested the waters, so to speak, on Saturday June 30th.

Part of the grant requirement is to survey visitors at Battle Rock Wayside Visitor Center. We find out where folks are from and where they are headed. As we stand and admire the beautiful coastal view together,  we share our connection to Port Orford and point out the 5 prominent rocks of Redfish Rocks one of five marine reserves in Oregon.

AJ and I soon learned that a clipboard and pencil was a deterrent in approaching visitors. So, donned in our jackets (and eventually red caps) we simply walked up to people and started a conversation… Sometimes short and sweet and sometimes so much more…

I know you want the “so much more”…

Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve is a living undersea laboratory dedicated to conservation and research. The Marine Reserve is a 2.7 square mile “no fish/no take” area of kelp beds, large boulders, complex rocky reef, and soft bottom reaching to a depth of 131 feet. No extraction of fish, crab, and red sea urchin is allowed.

An additional 5 square miles beyond the Reserve is the Marine Protected Area where crabbing and salmon trolling is allowed.

  • Protect and sustain seas for future generations
  • Conserve marine habitats and biodiversity
  • Provide a framework for scientific research and effectiveness monitoring
  • Avoid significant adverse social and economic impacts on ocean users coastal communities
  • Invest in the future profitability to provide more fish
  • Offer educational opportunities for students, residents, and visitors
Who and when

In 2009 the state of Oregon enlisted the help of Port Orford’s  commercial fishermen and local community to take part in a pilot project to establish an ocean reserve. After 3 years of “give and take” discussions and meetings between the local community, fishing community, and the state, the Port Orford fishing community picked the location and established the boundaries and rules. After submitting their proposal to the state, the legislature approved and adopted the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), Oregon State University (OSU), and the local fishing community began collecting baseline data in 2010. Research monitoring includes: the Fishtracker Project that studies the movement of fish implanted with transmitters, Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) controlled aboard host vessels that allow researchers to monitor habitat by recording video and taking measurements of habitat features and fish species of the reserve, SMURF (Standardized Monitoring Unit for the Recruitment of Fishes) that collects juvenile fishes at the reserve and comparison sites, and hook-and-line surveys conducted inside and outside the reserve to measure the size and distribution of fish species.

Restrictions began in January of 2012.

Will prohibiting fishing in the Reserve benefit the ocean ecosystem? Will the Reserve contribute to a more sustainable fishing industry for Port Orford?

Data is up for review in 2023.

Other interesting facts:

  • It takes 1,000 pounds of kelp/seaweed to grow a salmon
  • Rockfish can live for 50 – over 100 years
  • Rockfish give birth to live babies
    • very small, like plankton
    • vulnerable to currents
    • adrift for about 90 days before settling as juveniles
    • big old fat fertile female fish
    • as rockfish females age they produce more offspring
    • as rockfish females age they produce more viable offspring

Check out to find out more.

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