Marine Resource Committees (Washington)
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Marine Resource Committees (MRC) in Washington engage citizens to set priorities and design projects of local importance to help protect and restore the marine environment. Locally established Marine Resource Committees exist in eleven coastal counties in Washington State. They are comprised of community members, appointed by the local county board of commissioners or county council, who represent a broad spectrum of interests including business, tribes, recreational interests, the conservation community, the local port and scientific expertise.
Benefits of Having an MRC
Marine Resource Committees are an advisory body on marine issues. They bring together many interests to work cooperatively and effectively, contribute to scientific understanding of the marine ecosystem, spread innovative ideas regionally, and mobilize citizen support for marine conservation. As a result, they implement practical, on-the-ground projects that benefit the local ecosystem and economy. These projects often generate money and resources from state agencies and other entities.
Examples of MRC Accomplishments
- Coordinating with local partners, tribes and agencies in removing marine and shoreline debris
- Enhancing ocean science education through classroom literacy and field trips
- Mapping forage fish spawning beaches.
- Creating voluntary protected areas to restore eelgrass, rockfish and other sensitive species
- Promoting community engagement in coastal and marine management and stewardship initiatives, including marine spatial planning
The first MRC was established in San Juan County in 1996 through a local initiative. A year later, U.S. Senator Patty Murray and U.S. Representative Jack Metcalf established a blue-ribbon committee to explore alternative models for protecting and restoring marine resources in the Northwest Straits. The result of this effort was to the establishment of the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative, authorized by Congress in 1998, and the creation of six additional county-based Marine Resource Committees.
Based of the success of the Northwest Straits MRCs, in 2007, the Washington State Legislature passed a bill to encourage other coastal counties to create MRCs, declaring that “it is essential for the future management of these [marine] ecosystems that citizens, through their local government, have a voice and an opportunity to share their dedication and interest in the well-being of their community’s unique marine waters, while providing a valuable contribution to the statewide efforts aimed at restoring the outer coast and Puget Sound as a whole.” Communities on the Pacific Coast worked with the state legislature and in 2008, received funding to support the creation of MRCs in 4 counties with marine waters along the outer Pacific Coast.
The 2010 Report to the Legislature, Progress Establishing Coastal Marine Resource Committees (December 2010), lists the following accomplishments during 2009:
- Establishment of the final WA Coastal MRC in Wahkiakum County by County resolution, joining existing Coastal MRCs formed in 2009 in Clallam, Jefferson, Grays Harbor, and Pacific Counties
- Completion of water quality monitoring training and sampling for NOAA’s National Mussel Watch Program in Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties
- Participation in public comment sessions to support the draft legislative report on Marine Spatial Planning
- Enhancement of marine science education through field trip transportation to marine and estuarine environments including the Fiero Marine Life Center, Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuges, and the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
- Initiation of filmed oral history interviews for the Gathering Our Voice project in Wahkiakum County’s Lower Columbia River Estuary
- Organization of a Washington coast-wide Coastal MRC Summit sponsored by the Surfrider Foundation and The Nature Conservancy
- Scientific investigation through water quality monitoring and reporting, Spartina surveys, and a study of river otter predation on salmon
- Completion of numerous coast-wide beach and estuary garbage clean-ups
- Increased direct connection of local residents to state agencies through MRC partnerships and representation on the State Ocean Caucus
- Raised general awareness of marine and estuarine issues through MRC-sponsored newspaper publications, presence at local festivals, science-based workshops, creation of educational KIOSKs, and other outreach and communication activities