Marine Protection Area
Could Be Coming
MPA FOR FORSYTHE?: There’s a bit of a stir (and sweat) over the nomination of the Edwin By Forsythe Wildlife Refuge to become part of the federal Marine Protection Area system.
So what is a Marine Protection Area (MPA), you, Mr. Angler, ask -- beginning to stir and sweat a bit?
Well, I’m generally a fast learn, meaning I usually get things pretty quickly. Not here. I’ve been intensely exploring the National Marine Protected Area Center’s website (http://mpa.gov/) – it gets wordy and involved when surfing through it – and I’m no closer to a proper understanding of the full-blown MPA concept as when I first heard those letters and thought it stood for the famed Mongoose and Platypus Association. I have figured out that the MPA system – or is it a program? -- is run through NOAA and maybe someone else.
Below, I will loose the governmentally assigned definition of MPA, hoping it motivates further investigation on your part. I have no doubt there are faster learns than yours truly so I invite one and all to read, absorb and ultimately identify the exact nature of MPAs. Share. If all you get in the end -- after lengthy reading and rereading -- is a well defined “What the ****?”, join the club – or the Mongoose and Platypus Association.
From the .gov website:
“The official federal definition of an MPA is: ‘any area of the marine environment that has been reserved by federal, state, tribal, territorial, or local laws or regulations to provide lasting protection for part or all of the natural and cultural resources therein.’ -- Executive Order 13158 (May 2000).
“In practice, MPAs are defined areas where natural and/or cultural resources are given greater protection than the surrounding waters. In the U.S., MPAs span a range of habitats including the open ocean, coastal areas, inter-tidal zones, estuaries, and the Great Lakes. They also vary widely in purpose, legal authorities, agencies, management approaches, level of protection, and restrictions on human uses.”
I contacted Stan Hales, program director with the Barnegat Bay Estuary Program, hoping he had absorbable details about MPAs. Saying he was “generally supportive” of MPAs, he offered a couple practical interpretations of the system, saying, “It brings together state and federal resources into a single system … often for data collecting. It is a coordinated effort.”
Hearing that the mere mention of “protected area” frightens anglers, Hales said definitively, “It (MPA) adds no regulatory authority.”
Hales was encouraged that MPAs could help protect subaquatic vegetation, particularly those species related to shallow water ecosystems. In the case of Forsythe becoming involved with the National Marine Protected Area system, it would allow for closer monitoring of the uses and abuses of shallow water areas where essential vegetation, like eel grass, insure the perpetuation of a healthy and vital bay environment. Should an MPA hook up with Forsythe, the refuge would still only control the land, down to mean high water. However, other entities related to the MPA (entities could be local, county, state and federal – as I read it) would monitor the shallows, up to the mean low water mark.
Is there danger lurking in the MPA system?
As doubly noted, I’m still not sure. I do know that the hugely significant term “no take” is in the MPA vernacular. “No take” is he dreaded sanctuary expression whereby numerous public usages, i.e. fishing, are nixed.
Here is a short excerpt from the executive summary in the book "Marine Protected Areas: Tools for Sustaining Ocean Ecosystem," coauthored by the Committee on the Evaluation, Design, and Monitoring of Marine Reserves and Protected Areas in the United States, Ocean Studies Board, National Research Council: “MPAs, areas designated for special protection to enhance the management of marine resources, show promise as components of an ecosystem-based approach for conserving the ocean's living assets. However, MPA proposals often raise significant controversy, especially the provisions for marine reserves—zones within an MPA where removal or disturbance of resources is prohibited, sometimes referred to as closed or ‘no-take’ areas.”
However, something called “public consumption” is allowed in nearly all currently functioning MPAs. Consumption does not mean you can drink your brains out within MPAS, that’s just an odd way of saying you can fish, dive and be merry therein.
I’m thinking that MPAs come down to how militantly they’re monitored. Nice MPAs, no sweat.
I must, out of political fairness, include a passage from page from http://mpa.gov. It is about the formation of an MPA up in the Great Lakes area, namely Michigan.
“… In November 1997, Alpena (Michigan) residents voted against the proposed sanctuary in a nonbinding referendum (1,770 to 776). Despite the defeat, NOAA decided to continue the sanctuary designation process because the agency believed Thunder Bay was a unique cultural resource and deserved protection. The agency vowed to address local and state concerns, which centered on the fear that the federal government would preempt local authority and restrict use of the Bay. Michigan Gov. John Engler encouraged NOAA to continue with the project provided the agency appropriately protect state and local rights.
“NOAA completed a final EIS/MP in June 1999. Michigan, however, published its own plan—the “Michigan Option”—two months later. The state plan stressed the need for a state and federal partnership to manage the sanctuary jointly and emphasized recreational uses of the site (Brody, 2001). Less than a year later, NOAA and the state of Michigan reached an agreement on the management of the sanctuary, and on Oct. 7, 2000, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve became the 13th national marine sanctuary.”
Later this month, The Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Federal Advisory Committee will meet to discuss potential additions to the system. Not to worry. Nominated MPA locations must undergo serious scrutiny, including intense public comment periods, before being created. Also, there are tons of sites being offered at possible MPA areas. However, I have this feeling that Forsythe is quite high on the list.
I DON’T LIKE IT – NOW WHAT?: I’ve been taken to task for not sounding off on the proposed solid waste transfer station to be located on Rte. 539, just east of the Parkway. The station would be adjacent to that toll road, which prides itself on being garden-esque.
There could be upwards of 75 trucks a day offloading trash there.
I was actually among the first folks in the public realm to get word about the transfer facility, after SandPaper reporter Pat Johnson got wind of it -- long before anyone else in the media. I went low profile on my columnizing on the subject because Pat was breaking the story and it’s taboo to step in and steal and thunder.
With the controversial cat now well out of the media bag, I will say that I’m fully opposed to the facility but on principal alone.
I’ll venture to say that the current inanely intense development along Rte. 539, particularly the golf course and even ball fields, are doing infinitely more damage to the environment than the transfer station ever will. Where the transfer station application must toss out words like refuse, trash, garbage and waste, those other equally odious already-built enterprises – including proposed biggies along the highway – got to allude the use of what they also bring to the area: refuse, trash, garbage, waste and dirt.
As for the transfer station, I can’t be the only one who sees a hilarious irony in chasing a topless entertainment club out of that area only to have a whole other level of trash powering on-scene. Remember: This is not a matte that can be voted down or referendum-ized. If powers in the state and county chose the location, that’s all she wrote.
I hate seeing any development that drives 539 to become the next Rte. 72, which became the next Rte. 37.
It’s a tad aggravating when I get letter that says, “Why aren’t you fighting the transfer station?” when I’ve been lambasting building on 539 for years -- with little or no public support. Targeting the transfer station is akin to shooting at a muskrat while the ravenous wolves of build out are prowling all along the highway. Ironically, the wolfish developers hoping to ravage the last remaining wooded area along 539 (east of the Parkway) are also up in arms over the transfer station since it could diminish the desirability of homes and businesses they’re planning. Hell, having a huge oozy throbbing transfer station might be the best thing to save the environment along the highway. Hmmm.
RUNDOWN: Winds have been wicked to wearisome, mainly westerlies. No breaks as of this writing.
Bunker are starting to swarm within the bay. They are already showing in Manahawkin Bay, south of Causeway. On Monday, I saw one large pod south of the Big Bridge, maybe 100 yards out. Last year, there were days when a dozen or more separate (large) schools could be seen creating nervous water on the surface. That came more toward the end of April and into May.
Somewhat early, bluefish are on the bunker off the beachfront. That report comes from off Island Beach.
Winter floundering is decent – also spurty – over toward the Plant, BB, BI and some Double Creek holes. Still need lots of chum to get them to the boat. Fishing pressure elsewhere (HC, Hoch’s and such) is scant.
White perch have flared at Mill Creek and some herring are making it upstream. Per usual, the perch picking is best toward dark. In fact, it’s often nonexistent until the day’s light leaks off. Dredging is pretty much done.
Beachfront bassing is looking north – and up. Regulars on the North End quietly began coaxing shorts a week ago and have now probed the keeper-class realm, evidenced by a 25-3 pound beaut taken by Bob Massa. The South End has not been happening just yet. However, Brigantine is picking up and those fish tend to move north, often splitting -- some going into Great Bay and Little Egg Harbor while others go beachfront, i.e. South End.
Inside the inlets, plugs are interesting small fish. Jigs with fake-o eels are worth a try. I know there are bass on the Barnegat Bay flats buy haven’t gotten many reports from the few folks who usually work them in spring. Conditions haven’t been that great.
Graveling Point has had some impressive striper spurts, close to nonstop hooking providing you’re on the banks at just the right moment. Keepers are there but not in spades. The GP fishing pressure is all over the block. One day the Point will be packed and the next day empty. Kinda odd. Upriver (Mullica) is active, with plenty of shorts on a now-and-again basis. Angler Al M recently caught “fun fish” on plugs, tapping into a ‘secret” bank. “I had fish hitting and swirling for a solid hour, then things just turned off. It was still some of the best spring fishing I ever had there … I swear something other than a bass ripped off the tail of a plastic I tried,” he wrote, adding, “Saw a fox in the middle of the day that wasn’t very afraid. I hope it wasn’t rabid.”
E-question: “What turns on the bite at Graveling Point?” Onshore or side-ass winds stir the bottom muck of the shallows along the point. Always-opportunistic bass swarm there upon. A shift to hard west winds stirs the banks on the other side of the bay, calling stripers from Graveling. It can take a day before an onshore wind sparks the bass to move in. A top scenario are brisk ESE winds all night and into the following day. The night hours bring the stir and the next day is when the lag time runs out, as stripers move in. I have also had super sessions on calm cloudy days.
I once had an interesting session at Graveling during an extreme blowout tide. Day after day of springtime west had the water so shallow, I walked/slogged out over 50 yards from the banks. The water all the way out was only a couple/few feet deep -- and the bottom mud almost the same. Way the hell out there, I hyper-heaved my three-ounced rig– with the help of west winds. Where I hadn’t had a touch from the banks, I got into fish almost immediately out there. The further I slogged, the bigger the bass seemed. I even got a keeper fish.
I also recall that day for a painfully pokey episode. When I ran out of bloodworms, I had to take the long and sinky trek back to the banks. Halfway to the bank, I felt a nasty jab on my leg. It felt like a sting but I knew my waders wouldn’t allow such a thing. I kept walking but the pain kept on keeping on. I finally got in shallow enough to see what the hell was jabbing me. Here I had been caught. A ghost rig with cork floats had hooked onto my leg. The not-that-rusty hook (recently lost) had gone clean through my neoprene wader, my pants and got a goodly grab of skin; nothing dramatically damaging but it got into my head as I headed back out, trying to stare in the no-visibility water for any other cast off ghost rigs.
E-question: “What keeps stealing my bait this time of year?”
Blame the Jonahs. These crabs are big, amazingly strong and, fortunately, not real fast or overly aggressive. I once toyed around with a large freshly taken Jonah crab, caught while it was stealing worms from my springtime pompano rig. I was cockily wearing gloves so I went as far as tempting its oversized claws. I had read the pinch/crush of a Jonah crab claw could easily crush the stuffing out of a person’s pinky . I poked at the crab. Instead of latching on first and asking questions later (blue crab style), it simply tried to fend off my fingers with a non-biting pushing action. It quickly opted out of that relatively passive approach and, seemingly without much interest, grabbed the material at the fingertip of my neoprene glove -- and made me pay. No, it didn’t get my skin but it lay open the costly neoprene. I got a portion of revenge by tearing off one of its claws --before releasing the no-worse-for-tear crab. I cooked the claw and chilled it down. It was incredible, after a very tough crack-open. In fact, I wrote about that interesting dining experience in one of my first fishing columns in here, way too many years back.
Nature note: I’ve been doing loads of time deep woods and the spring peepers (frog species) showing is astronomical, always a good ecological sign. A few sites were dizzyingly loud with these tiny frogs, all calling for all they were worth. When you’re standing in the middle of screaming spring peepers, the crescendo hits the ears in such a way that is really does get a tad disorienting.
The wood frog (the earliest of the spring callers) is not faring as well for whatever reason. I picked up on only scattered calls from the edges of puddles on dirt roads, a water source this species utilizes for spawning.
While there is currently enough water in the Pines for amphibians to successfully spawn, we have nearly an 8-inch rain deficit this year, meaning a hot dry summer could spark a grass-killing, creek-drying drought. And I think that’s just what’s coming our way after a fairly cold winter.