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“Dead Zones” Off NJ Coast

I like to write about some of the important ocean/coastal ecosystem issues that are ignored by the media, DEP, and some environmental groups’ narrow focus on beach issues and bacteria testing  (see most recent, May 27 post “State of the Shore“).

But, in contrast, today I compliment Bergen Record reporter Jim O’Neill for another excellently researched and well written must read story, Rutgers study shows 4 ‘dead zones’ along N.J. coast

Because I like to connect the dots between the science and public policy and hold government officials accountable, I would add the following policy context to O’Neill’s outstanding story:

1.Over 2 years ago, the NJ legislature created a Coastal and Ocean Protection Council, as well as a new ecosystem based management policy.

The Council was intended to improve the visibility and priority of ocean issues, and is tasked with. making recommendations to DEP on ways to enhance ecosystem protections, strengthen policy, improve science, and better coordinate management.  I helped draft the bill and worked with Benson Chiles who heads the NJ Coastal Ocean Coalition, and prime sponsor, Senator Bob Smith (D-Middlesex).

2. Rutgers Professor Kennish, the primary source in O’Neill’s story, is a member of the Council and his research supports an ecosystem based management approach.

3. Several Council members have not been appointed by Governor Christie, thus questioning his commitment to science and ecosystem based policy.

4. The Council has yet to meet.

5. The small start up appropriation ($75,000) got diverted; and

6. DEP has done nothing to integrate the new ecosystem based management policy in existing DEP coastal zone policy and programs.

7. The Coastal and Ocean Coalition recently released another excellent Report on the Delaware Bayshore (researched and written by Susan Kennedy). It too is  being ignored (for the Report, summary of recommendations and the press release, visit Shore11).

So, next time DEP, some politician, or an environmental group makes some fabulous claim about protecting the ocean, ask them about ecosystem based management and the Council!

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