DEP GETS GREEN LIGHT TO CREATE STATE'S FIRST MARINE
The Tidelands Resource Council today advanced an innovative management
plan for the Sedge Islands of Barnegat Bay that will give New Jersey its
first Marine Conservation Zone designed to reduce the environmental impacts
of personal watercraft and better manage wildlife, recreation and traditional
uses of the area.
State Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Shinn touted the plan
as a "fair and reasonable approach to protect the unique natural resources
of the Sedge Islands, and to eliminate the high-powered watercraft along
the shallow waters of the Barnegat Bay."
"It's no secret that there are competing uses for water space in Barnegat
Bay and throughout our coastal waterways and inland lakes," said Shinn,
noting that an estimated 200,000 personal watercraft and jet-boat type
vessels were sold in this country in 1997, unintentionally creating new
environmental problems and conflicts among kayakers, fishers, clammers
"The idea of marine zoning offers a solution that would reduce watercraft
conflicts in critical areas of the Sedge Islands while not restricting
watercraft activities in other areas of the bay. It may also play an important
role in protecting sensitive areas, bird-nesting sites and reduce watercraft
conflicts which occur every year while still accommodating everyone's
recreational demands in the bay," added Shinn, who cochairs the Barnegat
Bay Estuary Policy Committee.
Existing boating regulations do not consider natural resource conservation
issues or user conflicts. Similarly, "soundscapes" and "user experience"
also are not covered by existing regulations. The Barnegat Bay Comprehensive
Conservation Management Plan recommends that the issue of competing uses
be addressed and identifies several options, among them conservation zoning
in sensitive areas.
The Tidelands Council today unanimously authorized DEP to manage the
tidelands adjacent to the Southern Natural Area of Island Beach State
Park, giving the agency's Park Service and the Division of Fish and Wildlife
jurisdictional authority to establish no-wake zones and other measures
to protect the tidal marsh system.
Under current law, no such authority existed, leading to a jurisdictional
issue and the inability to effectively manage wildlife resources and address
severe user conflicts that are now occurring.
Currently, 400 acres of the Sedge Islands are administered by DEP's Division
of Parks and Forestry and 190 acres by the Division of Fish and Wildlife.
A management agreement is being drafted to eliminate the dual jurisdiction
and establish one set of management rules.
The Marine Conservation Management Zone proposal would establish a no
personal watercraft zone in the shallow waters of the Sedge Islands of
Island Beach State Park and within 300 feet of the bayshore shoreline
in the Southern Natural Area.
The council approved an interim license that will allow DEP to assume
immediate jurisdiction of the tidelands and move forward with the marine
conservation zone planning effort as expeditiously as possible.
The conservation zones would be marked with buoys, land markers and
signs and would ban jet skis which currently drive through shallow marshes
at a high rate of speed.
"I want to thank Senators Leonard T.Connors, Andrew R. Ciesla, Robert
W. Singer and Assemblymen Jeffrey W. Moran and Christopher J. Connors
who are champions of this cause and drafted a resolution in support of
this proposal. I also was gratified to learn of the overwhelming support
of citizens, environmental and conservation groups and water craft associations
which enthusiastically endorse the proposal," said Shinn.
DEP so far has received support from more than 100 individuals in favor
of the management zoning plan and from groups including Save Barnegat
Bay, the Barnegat Bay Estuary Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, New
Jersey Audubon, Friends of Island Beach, Rutgers Cooperative Extension,
Barnegat Baywatch, American Littoral Society, Ocean County Environmental
Agency and Berkley Township Environmental Commission.
Island Beach State Park Superintendent Bill Vibbert, who has researched
marine conservation zoning, says zoning has been used to protect resources
here and abroad but is commonly used on land. Island Beach State Park
has three mangement zones and two natural areas serving as a successful
New Jersey model of land zoning.
Vibbert notes that marine conservation zoning has been used successfully
at the Great Barrier Reef in Austrailia, the Cayman Islands, and the Marine
Life Conservation Districts in Hawaii. Additionally, the Florida Keys
Natural Marine Sanctuary is a U.S. Marine Sanctuary that provides a comprehensive
management program with five zones including ecological preserves, sanctuary
preservation areas, wildlife management areas, existing management areas,
and special use areas. There are currently 13 national marine sanctuaries
in the U.S. administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
that all use a zoning approach to management.
"Use of high speed personal watercraft boats such as jet skis in tidal
marshes and shallow shoreline areas is considered incompatible with both
natural habitat management and historical clamming and fishing use," stated
Vibbert. "But watercraft use in other portions of Barnegat Bay by such
craft, however, would result in very little conflict."
"Marine zoning also will be useful for the protection of nesting bird
colonies, endangered species such as osprey and peregrine falcon, and
preserving historic uses of Barnegat Bay because many threatened and endangered
wildlife in the Sedge Islands depend on the estuary for survival," said
The Sedge Islands currently support New Jersey's largest osprey colony
of 26 active nests and contain New Jersey's first peregrine falcon hacking
tower. The Islands also have 715 acres of tidal wetland which serve as
spawning, nursery, forage and refuge habitat for many estuarine and offshore
Shinn said marine zoning has positive long-range implications for the
environment and has the potential to be applied throughout the state in
sensitive habitats. He noted that conservation zoning could provide a
means of managing both land and water as one unit thereby protecting natural
resources and reducing conflicts.
"This approach will go a long way in protecting our tidal wetlands, shallow
waters and beach and dune areas of the Sedge Islands which provide high
quality habitat for a diversity of fish and wildlife species," said Shinn.
"It will also enable other recreational uses of our waters such as clamming,
crabbing and kayaking without conflicts."
Details of the management plan will be developed in the near future and
will receive public input from a variety of user groups and the public.
The plan also needs approval by the Natural Areas Council, the Division
of Fish and Wildlife, the Division of Parks and Forestry, Shinn, and the