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The ocean off of Oregon’s Coast is one of the richest temperate marine ecosystems in the entire world. And since the 1970’s Oregonians have strived for meaningful and enduring protection for this invaluable resource. After many years of effort, Oregonians succeeded in establishing the firest marine reserves off the Oregon coast. A community-based process is underway to designate additional reserves. Learn more and get involved...

Green Fire Productions produced three documentaries for the Common Ground series. The acclaimed films feature extraordinary underwater footage filmed off the Oregon Coast and have screened across the state to help build greater awareness and support for a network of marine reserves in Oregon.

Based in Oregon, Green Fire Productions has been creating documentaries on the environment and social justice issues since 1989. They’ve produced more than 20 award-winning programs that are screened both worldwide and throughout the United States. Karen Meyer, executive director of Green Fire explained, “We produced Common Ground so that Oregonians could see first hand our underwater world and learn about ocean ecosystems, environmental problems and solutions – and get involved in this issue.”

Common Ground: Oregon’s Ocean examines Oregon’s ocean ecosystems and looks for ways to protect marine biodiversity and enhance fisheries and put the topic of marine reserves on Oregon's radar screen. The film weaves cutting edge marine science with perspectives from those who rely on the ocean for their livelihood.

Common Ground II: Oregon's Ocean Legacy interviews state policy makers, local elected officials, marine scientists and fishermen on solutions for protecting and restoring Oregon’s marine habitat. The film encourages Oregonians to particpate in the state marine reserves planning process.

Common Ground III: Oregon's Network of Marine Reserves and Marine Protected Areas reveals why a network of marine protected areas and reserves gives us the best chance to ensure we can continue to benefit from our ocean’s bounty, not just today but in the future. The film also includes comments from coastal leaders and business owners who were actively involved in developing marine reserve proposals last year.

The Common Ground films were produced to foster dialogue among diverse Oregonians and stimulate actions that would help shape solutions to protecting marine biodiversity.

A Catalyst for Ocean Conservation - How a film makes a difference

The documentary film Common Ground struck a nerve across Oregon. From Charleston to Astoria and from Portland to Newport, hundreds filled theaters to capacity to watch this film and discuss threats to marine life and potential benefits for the ocean by designating marine reserves.

“The marine ecosystem off the coast of Oregon is in trouble,” says film producer Karen Meyer. “Marine reserves are key to the recovery of fish populations and the ecosystem as a whole.”

In 2002, Oregon’s Ocean Policy Advisory Council (OPAC) recommended testing a limited number of marine reserves but a bitter battle ensued between industry, state government and conservationists and the process stalled.

Karen and Ralf Meyer of Green Fire Productions created the film to get people talking about marine reserves - and it has done just that. Panel discussions following screenings consistently included both conservationists and industry representatives who have been public skeptics about reserves. This broadened the audience for the film and led to real dialogue.

In the small fishing town of Port Orford – population 600 – more than 200 people attended the local screening. In the days that followed, Port Orford fishermen began discussing the possibility of marine reserve in the ocean waters that they fish. Leesa Cobb of the Port Orford Ocean Resource Team said: “The Common Ground event was the catalyst for the fishermen to move forward.”

To date, more than 4,500 people have attended screenings of the initial Common Ground film: 3,300 policymakers, fishermen, elected officials, business owners, marine scientists and concerned citizens have attended public screenings around the state; another 1,200 individuals have attended smaller screenings for ocean stakeholders.

According to state natural resource agency staff, the film has sparked “true dialogue” among individuals and organizations “that were not talking or listening to each other before the project. Now they are. This is no mean feat given the emotional nature of the issue, and is certainly something that none of the parties or a government entity could have established.”

By creating a film and screening events that respect differing points of view, this film has enabled one-time adversaries to find common ground. “This project has provided an unprecedented forum for open communication among groups that otherwise rarely meet face-to-face,” says Mark Hixon, a marine biologist at Oregon State University. “It is encouraging mutual understanding and generating trust.”

At a Salem screening, Secretary of State Bill Bradbury who moderated the Q & A session remarked, "I was struck by the large number of citizens who came last night because they are obviously concerned about the health of our oceans."

Since the film’s launch, in June 2005, the OPAC process resumed and in June 2007, Gov. Ted Kulongoski directed the State to establish a network of marine reserves in state waters to protect ocean habitat for fish, wildlife and people by December 2008. A public nomination process in 2008 produced 20 citizen proposals, which identified nine key ecological areas along the coast. In 2009 the Oregon Legislature passed marine reserve legislation designating an initial two marine reserves and directing a community-based process to study the addition of four additional sites.

"Common Ground III is anything but common - this amazingly well-produced video represents a major leap forward in graphically depicting the fascinating complex coastal undersea world, and how marine reserves could have beneficial long term impacts on all aspects of our coastal economy and environment."

- Bill Fleenor, Lane County Commissioner