Jetski Victory: Island Beach Marine Conservation Zone

Letters from SBB supporters helped win approval for a Sedge Island Conservation Zone at Island Beach State Park. View an AERIAL PHOTO or a MAP of the Conservation Zone. Also, see the next personal watercraft nightmare!


On March 7, 2001 the Tidelands Resources Council voted to allow the DEP’s Division of Parks and Forestry to manage a conservation zone in the shallows around the sedge islands at Island Beach State Park. More recently, in November 2001, the Division was given authority to manage the conservation zone for twenty years. [View aerial photo.] [View map.] This is one of New Jersey’s first meaningful steps to protect wildlife from damage by jetskis.

The many letters written to the Council by Save Barnegat Bay supporters were instrumental in making this possible.

Frequently Asked Questions, Island Beach State Park Southern Natural Area Conservation Zone Proposal (Text courtesy of Island Beach State Park).

What is proposed?

The Division of Parks and Forestry, and the Division of Fish and Wildlife have requested a management agreement from the Tidelands Resource Council to
include riparian (water) areas surrounding the Sedge Islands into the Southern Natural Area of Island Beach State Park.

Why is it necessary to seek jurisdiction over the water areas surrounding the Sedge Islands of Island Beach State Park?

A tidal marsh ecosystem functions as one biological unit including creeks, ponds, ditches, and the surrounding shallow water areas. The wildlife resources and the human activities utilize the riparian and upland areas of the marsh without regard for jurisdictional boundaries. Current law does not permit a state agency to establish management policies over water areas without a grant, license, or management agreement from the Tidelands Resource Council. Island Beach has been receiving dramatically increasing complaints from users, especially those using shallow water areas. Wildlife resources have also been impacted by the lack of management jurisdiction over the area.

What is a Marine Conservation Zone?

A Marine Conservation Zone is an area that can include riparian areas as well as areas above the high tide level. NOAA states: ” Zoning provides a common sense approach to focus protection in critical portions of sensitive habitat while not restricting activities any more than necessary.”

What are other models of Marine Zoning?

Marine zoning is very common around the world, as well as in other states. The Great Barrier Reef National Marine Park in Australia is the largest example. In the U.S., the National Marine Sanctuaries were created “ to serve as the trustee for the nation’s system protected areas, to conserve, protect, and enhance their biodiversity, ecological integrity, and cultural legacy.” There are now thirteen Marine Sanctuaries including the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Marine Zoning is also used in the Cayman Islands and Hawaii where ten Marine Life Conservation Districts have
been established.

Are there other examples of Zoning in New Jersey?
Island Beach State Park is managed through a zoning approach. There are three zones, each with a distinct management plan to insure that the natural resources of the park are protected while providing public access for nearly one million people a year. Management policies are carefully adjusted to maintain the proper balance between public access and resource protection. The water areas around the Sedge Islands of Island Beach currently have a “no commercial crab pot” rule.

What conflicts are now occurring?
The Sedge Islands attract a large number of people who enjoy fishing, clamming, crabbing, snorkeling, kayaking, or just walking in the shallow water of the area. The most obvious recent conflict is the increasing use of personal watercraft that can access the shallow waters of the marsh, posing a safety risk to people and wildlife. But there are other potential threats to the wildlife resources and the experience of visitors. Commercial use, protection of osprey nests, protection of tern and black skimmer colonies, and managing the rapidly increasing human use of the area are all of concern for the long term protection of the area.

How would the area be managed?
The Sedge Islands Southern Natural Area will now include the surrounding water areas. Management will be carried out by the Division of Parks and Forestry and the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Essentially, the additional water area will become a part of Island Beach State Park and managed under the same regulations. The Natural Areas Council, a group of citizens appointed by the Governor will advise the Commissioner of the DEP regarding the management policies and provide public oversight. This is identical to the existing Island Beach State Park program which has successfully utilized a zoning approach for many years.

How will the approval of a management agreement affect traditional activities?
Traditional activities such as fishing, boating, clamming, crabbing, waterfowl hunting, and birding will not be affected. The advantage of the Conservation Zone approach is that management can be adjusted rapidly to insure that wildlife is protected and user conflicts are reduced. Restrictions around bird nesting areas, for example, can be removed when the nesting season is over.

What is significant about the Sedge Islands?
The Sedge Islands of Island Beach are one of New Jersey’s most important wildlife habitats. The area is designated a Natural Heritage Priority Site, and contains globally rare species. The Sedge Islands provides habitat for New Jersey’s largest osprey colony, and also for an array of terns, gulls, skimmers, shorebirds, wading birds, and waterfowl found nowhere else in our state. Further, the Sedge Islands provide recreational and educational experiences to thousands of visitors each year. Through the Fish and Wildlife Sedge Islands Environmental Education Center, and the Island Beach State Park kayak tour, visitors have an opportunity to learn about a tidal marsh ecosystem.


You think Barnegat Bay has it bad with jetskis now? Take a look at what’s coming next!

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