Washington Policy Manager Gus Gates was recently appointed by Governor Jay Inslee to represent ocean & coastal recreational users on the Washington Coast Marine Advisory Council (WCMAC). WCMAC is an advisory group established in the Governor Office in 2013. It is a stakeholder body comprised of representatives from commercial and recreational fishing, conservation, economic development, renewable energy, recreation, shellfish aquaculture, science, ports, state government, coastal marine resources committees, and the community at large.

Gus steps into the recreation seat standing on the shoulders of former Surfrider staff Casey Dennehy, who recently started a position with the Department of Ecology after serving on the WCMAC since 2013.

WCMAC members discussing coastal resilience at a recent meeting in Aberdeen

Developing a Marine Spatial Plan for the Washington Coast has been the primary focus of WCMAC since its inception in 2013. A key contribution for that plan was the Recreational Use Study led by Surfrider Foundation and partners Point 97. Coastal recreation provides significant economic and social benefits to coastal communities and the state—these include direct expenditures, as well as social benefits such as citizen enjoyment. In 2014, Washington residents took an estimated 4.1 million trips to the coast, with nearly 60 percent indicating their primary purpose was recreation. That recreation included a variety of activities including beach going (67%), sightseeing (62%), photography (36%) hiking and biking (33%), surfing/kayaking/boating (7%) and wildlife viewing (40%). When at the coast, the average respondent spent $117.14 per trip, translating to an estimated $481 million dollars in total direct expenditures for coastal communities and the state, through hotel visits, shopping, dining and other trip-related expenditures.

As the marine spatial plan is finalized and (hopefully) approved by NOAA in the near future and incorporated as part of Washington’s Coastal Management Program, there will be a shift towards implementation of the plan as new ocean uses are proposed, as well as on-going work to fill data gaps and further establish ecological indicators. WCMAC is also taking on an increased focus on the issue of coastal resilience in preparation for coastal hazards such as increased storm severity, flooding, erosion, and sea level rise. More to come on this topic and ways to engage in the months ahead.

WCMAC meetings are a great way to learn more and get involved in various issues that are affecting the coast, all meetings are open to the public and include space to provide public comments. If you have an issue that you’d like to know more about, or is a concern to you as a recreational ocean user, please contact Gus Gates as your representative on WCMAC.