SUBCOMMITTEE ON FISHERIES,
WILDLIFE AND OCEANS
SUBJECT: SANDMINING OFF THE NEW JERSEY COAST
Legislative Chairman of JCAA & NJFSC
Thomas P Fote
22 Cruiser Court
Toms River NJ 08753
Phone 732-270 9102 Fax 732-506-6409
Jersey Coast Anglers Association would like to thank Congressman James Saxton for holding this field hearing on a competitive lease sale of Federal sand and gravel resources from the waters offshore of New Jersey. We would also like to thank Congressman Frank Pallone for his attendance at this hearing. I am here today representing the Jersey Coast Anglers Association and the New Jersey Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs with a combined membership of one hundred fifty thousand concerned individuals.
Many of us have been involved in issues to protect the ocean for a long time. It seems we can never stop being vigilant. Once we resolve one threat, another is never far behind. We've been together at hearings, press conferences and meetings on wood burning, sludge dumping, garbage dumping, chemical dumping, acid dumping and numerous other assaults on the ocean. Now, businesses motivated by short term profits want to mine sand from the ocean floor. These companies show no concern for the impact of their actions on the ocean ecosystem. There is no consideration for those whose livelihood depends on a clean, healthy ocean or for those of us who know the ocean is an integral part of all our lives.
When we walk on the beach or sun ourselves on the sand, we often fail to recognize the diversity of life that is all around us. Sandpipers poke their beaks just below the surface to feast on the organisms that live there. Turtles and horseshoe crabs are two of the many species that lay their eggs in the sand both inshore and offshore. As children we dug holes in the sand and found sand crabs, a source of food for many species. It takes only a trained eye to find all the life on the dry, beach sand. Just imagine all the life supported in the sand at the ocean floor. Like the rainforest, a fragile ecosystem that is only inches from the surface, most of the life on the ocean floor is concentrated in the first few feet of sand. And like any disturbance of the soil in the rainforest, any assault on the sand on the ocean floor has a dramatic and long lasting impact. It will not quickly reestablish itself once the damage has occurred.
The floor of the ocean is already under constant assault from scallop dredging, otter trawl fishing, and surf clamming. The gear these commercial fisheries use impact the ocean floor and many worry what long term effect this will have. Because of the currents on the floor of the ocean, every lump or hill draws fish. The least productive areas are flat, sandy stretches. The trawling and scallop dredges flatten the fish attracting lumps and wrecks. To demonstrate how little sand miners understand the ocean floor, marine biologists and fishermen were appalled when a sand mining company offered to help us out by flattening the Seaside Lump, the Barnegat Ridge and the Manasquan Ridge, some of the most productive fishing areas along the Jersey coast.
We've already seen the consequence of the current damage to the ocean floor by certain gear types for commercial fishing and ocean dumping on inshore sites has resulted in decreased fish production and what appears to be a long term change in the topography of the ocean floor. A review of this proposal suggests that this is a tremendous undertaking that will have a considerably greater effect on the ocean floor than either commercial fishing or previous dumping. Unfortunately this permit request will probably be just the beginning. Once commercial strip mining of the ocean floor becomes a profitable reality, it will be almost impossible to stop. Remember how long we have been fighting to end ocean dumping, and we're still not finished. Wouldn't it have made sense not to begin it in the first place?
In April this subcommittee had a field hearing on bluefish, establishing the importance of this species to both the commercial and recreational fisheries. The decline in sand lance, also known as sand eels, was identified as one cause for the decline in bluefish. There are two species of sand lance (Ammodytes spp.), one which inhabits inshore and estuarine waters and one that inhabits offshore waters. Both species occur in near shore waters that are targeted by sand mining. These fish are also key forage for striped bass, summer flounder, bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna and many other species. When sand lance spawn they produce demersal eggs that attach to bottom substrate as opposed to pelagic eggs which float. Spawning would take place in areas of sand mining activities and the eggs would be very vulnerable to sand mining operations. In addition the adults bury themselves in the sand and could be destroyed in the mining.
The region proposed for sand mining is also critical habitat for planktonic larvae that settle to the bottom. Economically important species of fish have been shown to concentrate in this area and use it as a nursery area for juveniles. Some important commercial and recreational species of fish also spawn in the proposed region. The process of sand mining could have a detrimental impact upon juvenile stages and spawning activity of key species.
The only two articles I could find to research sand mining were on mining for beach replenishment. These articles are from the Committee on Beach Nourishment and Protection, Marine Board, Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems of the National Research Council and the Habitat Hotline Atlantic. This research is limited to small projects designed for beach nourishment and they expressed serious concerns about the short term and long term consequences of these projects. These articles stressed that much more research needs to be done. There is an absence of any research along this area of the coast to support approval of large scale sand mining.
It is abundantly clear that we do not need any additional
assaults on the ocean. Every time we attempt to resolve a land
based problem by using the ocean, we create an even greater long
term problem in the ocean. This makes me think of the Peter, Paul
and Mary's song that asked the question, "When will we ever
learn?" The Congressmen, mayors and citizens of the beach
communities have learned and we will not allow the public and the
government to forget these lessons.
Release For Tomorrow
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