Yaquina Bay Bridge, Newport. Photo by John Lavrakas

For many, Newport is tourist destination, sporting two lighthouses, a lively Bayfront district lined with shops and restaurants, and miles of rugged, majestic shoreline. For others, it is a fishing port, home to the most productive fishing fleet on the Oregon coast and a thriving working waterfront. But to marine scientists from Oregon State University, NOAA, and numerous other state and federal agencies, Newport is home port for some of the most cutting edge ocean research in the Pacific Rim.

Forty years ago, Oregon State University made a groundbreaking investment in marine research by establishing a marine science center, now called the Hatfield Marine Science Center. The National Science Foundation backed Oregon’s investment, through their University National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) program, providing OSU a needed research vessel; the current UNOLS vessel is the R/V Oceanus. Today the Hatfield Marine Science Center campus hosts a wide range of marine research organizations, including NOAA Fisheries, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the US Environmental Protection Agency. Nearby is NOAA’s Marine Operations Center – Pacific, homeport to five research vessels conducting hydrographic and biological research throughout the Pacific.

The development of marine science infrastructure continues. The US Department of Energy and its Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center are investing millions into the development of the Pacific Marine Energy Center, the only test facility of its kind for wave energy in the United States. This facility will host wave energy devices from around the world to conduct environmental and power testing, in cooperation with Oregon State University.

NOAA Marine Operations Center - Pacific. Photo from NOAA.

Furthermore, the National Science Foundation is building a full set of ocean cabled and free floating observatories, which will provide a continuous broadband stream of data that will be available to research scientist and classrooms worldwide. Its array of ocean sensors, including gliders, buoys, profilers, and cabled sensors, called the Endurance Array, will operate for more than two decades.

These federal investments, built upon state investments, are making Newport a hub for ocean observing in the Pacific Northwest.

Those in the region are well aware this reputation did not happen by chance. Through the efforts of many, including Lavern Weber and George Boehlert, past directors of HMSC, along with numerous regional leaders, Newport and the surrounding region has put into place the infrastructure, process, and relationships to support strong collaborative research, in which fishermen are as much a part of scientific research as the academics. Oregon Sea Grant has worked with regional organizations to form two collaborative groups ensuring close cooperation between scientists and fishermen. Scientists and Fishermen Exchange (SAFE) provides a safe and comfortable environment where genuine exchange of information improves communication and collaboration, builds positive relationships, encourages understanding, and fosters respect and trust among scientists, managers and fishermen. Fishermen Involved in Natural Energy (FINE), comprised of members of each sector of the commercial fishing industry, addresses the impact that proposed wave energy developments could have on commercial fishing in Lincoln County.

Newport is one of only two deep waters ports on the Oregon coast (the other being Coos Bay), and its two local ports in Toledo and Newport are taking steps to keep their infrastructure capabilities modernized and prepared to serve evolving needs. The Port of Newport is just completing the revamping of its International Terminal which will provide full cargo capability throughout the Pacific. The Port is also making plans to construct an Ocean Technology Center to host office, maintenance, training, and storage facilities for organizations involved in marine science research. The Port of Toledo has developed and now operates a vessel maintenance facility, providing dry dock and full maintenance of fishing and scientific research vessels, including wave energy devices, and has plans for building out its boatyard, providing capacity to handle vessels up to 130 ft in length.

Marine sensors on R/V Oceanus. Photo by John Lavrakas

Businesses are beginning to set up shop in the region, taking advantage of the close knit community that embraces collaboration. Foulweather Trawl works with federal and state scientists in designing, testing, and manufacturing trawl nets that maximize catch while reducing bycatch. Advanced Research Corporation works with scientists and fishermen in developing a wide range of data collection devices, databases, and visualization capabilities, using mobile and wireless technology. WET Labs in nearby Philomath manufactures numerous sensors that are used by Newport scientists throughout the Pacific. Sexton Corporation works closely with scientists including those at the Marine Mammal Institute in developing custom underwater enclosures for collecting biological and oceanographic data for itinerant marine mammals.

Being a developing region, the opportunities are strong for businesses involved in marine research, operations, and maintenance. As new capabilities come into the area, the demand for essential services increase, creating markets for companies already involved in ocean research.

Any business active in the field of marine research and ocean observing, as well as vessel operations and maintenance, should take a close look at Newport, and consider how it may fit into this growing economy.

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