III: ALTERNATIVES INCLUDING PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE
III. Alternatives Including the Preferred Alternative
The following alternatives all apply only to a small, discrete portion of the Sanctuary defined as follows (the Jade Cove area): the nearshore area bounded by the 35š55'20"N latitude parallel (coastal reference point: beach access stairway at south Sand Dollar Beach), the 35š53'20"N latitude parallel (westernmost tip of Cape San Martin), and the mean high tide line seaward to the 90-foot isobath (depth line). This area was determined, through consultation with jade collectors, artisans, divers, natural resource managers, and other knowledgeable parties to be the area historically of jade collection.
Alternative A: No Action (Status Quo)
This alternative would maintain the regulation prohibiting exploration, development or production of oil, gas or minerals within the Sanctuary. Jade collection of any type would continue to be absolutely prohibited within Sanctuary boundaries. Prohibition would remain consistent with State law and Los Padres National Forest restrictions. However, NOAA has determined that limited, small-scale jade collection activities will have at most a de minimis effect on the non-living jade resource and will not destroy, cause the loss of, or injure other resources and qualities of the MBNMS. Therefore, this alternative is not preferred.
Alternative B (Preferred Alternative): Amend the Management Plan and regulations to allow: (1) limited, small scale collection of loose pieces of jade under certain conditions, and (2) collection of larger pieces of loose jade pursuant to a Sanctuary permit.
This alternative, which is the preferred alternative, would provide a two-part exception to the regulatory prohibitions against exploring for, developing or producing oil, gas or minerals, and alteration of the seabed. This alternative would allow small-scale collection of loose pieces of jade that would otherwise naturally disintegrate and will have at most a de minimis effect on the jade resource, a non-living resource. The jade collected from the Sanctuary must be loose, meaning that natural wave or storm action has already completely separated the stone from the seabed. Stones that remain attached to the seafloor (e.g., part of the jade vein, wedged under another rock or overhang, or embedded in rock) are considered part of the seabed and are not loose. A Sanctuary permit may possibly be obtained for collection of larger pieces of loose jade in a manner that has a negligible impact on other Sanctuary resources (e.g., benthic habitat and communities). Collection of loose pieces of jade in the Sanctuary is generally consistent with the manner in which most jade was collected prior to Sanctuary designation. Under no circumstances will NOAA allow the use of pneumatic, mechanical, electrical, hydraulic or explosive tools for collection of jade. For these reasons, NOAA has selected this alternative as its preferred alternative.
The first part of this exception would allow small-scale collection of loose pieces of jade under certain conditions:
- No tools may be used to collect loose jade, except for a hand tool as defined below, to maneuver or lift jade pieces or scratch the surface of a stone as necessary to determine if it is jade; a lift bag or multiple lift bags with a total lifting capacity not to exceed two hundred pounds; and/or a vessel (except for motorized personal watercraft) to provide access to the Jade Cove area; and
- Each person may collect only what that person individually carries.
Hand tools would be specifically defined in the MBNMS regulations as follows:
a hand-held implement, utilized for the collection of jade pursuant to section 922.132(a)(1), that is no greater than 36 inches in length and has no moving parts (e.g., dive knife, pry bar or abalone iron). Pneumatic, mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, or explosive tools are, therefore, examples of what does not meet this definition.
NOAA has determined that the use of such hand tools to aid in maneuvering and lifting loose stones and scratching the surface of stones as necessary to determine if they are jade will have at most a de minimis effect on Sanctuary resources. Hand tools are not authorized to be used to break or chip stones.
The two hundred pound lift bag limit corresponds with the restriction limiting jade removal to what each person individually carries. Over one hundred pounds is considered to be a very heavy physical demand level (see Matheson, L. and M. Matheson, Examiners Manual for the Spinal Function Sort), and appears to correspond with the maximum amount that an average person could lift. The two hundred pound lift bag will allow safe transport to the surface of stones weighing less than 200 pounds. More important, the limitation is consistent with the overall effort to avoid jade collection that could adversely impact benthic (bottom) habitat. Stones exceeding two hundred pounds would be of such mass as to be more likely to support important components of the benthic community and should not be relatively readily made available for removal with the use of a lift bag with greater capacity. A Sanctuary permit would be required for collection of such larger stones.
Motorized personal watercraft are specifically mentioned because their operation is limited to four specific operating zones in the Sanctuary. Operating motorized personal watercraft (as defined in 15 CFR §922.131) in the Jade Cove area is prohibited.
The second part of this exception allows for the issuance of Sanctuary permits for collection of loose pieces of jade not allowed to be collected under the general exception for small scale, limited jade collection. Jade collectors would be required to apply for and receive a Sanctuary permit to collect such loose pieces of jade. Applications would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis under the general permit criteria contained at 15 CFR §§ 922.48 and 922.133 (see Appendix A), and would require that the applicant have all necessary approvals from other jurisdictions, including the California State Lands Commission. Any permits issued would be conditioned to protect Sanctuary resources. No pneumatic, mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, or explosive tools could be used to collect jade under any circumstances. NOAA will also not permit any excavation or mining of the jade resource, or the collection of larger loose pieces that support important components of the benthic community. Current State law would remain in force and anyone collecting jade must comply with State requirements for jade collection.
Alternative C: Amend the regulation to allow jade collection without limits.
This alternative would provide an exception to the MBNMS regulatory prohibitions against exploring for, producing or developing oil, gas or minerals within the Sanctuary, and altering the seabed of the Sanctuary to allow collection of jade without any restrictions on methods or amounts. It would eliminate any administrative burdens on NOAA and the public (e.g., permits and enforcement). However, it also represents a serious risk for significant impacts to the jade resource, the benthic environment, and other Sanctuary resources in the area. NOAA must consider the future consequences of current management decisions. A policy allowing unrestricted jade collection would create the future opportunity and potential for systematic, large-scale extraction of jade. Rapid advancements in mining and ocean engineering have greatly increased the capability to extract increased quantities of resources from previously inaccessible areas. Unlimited and unrestricted jade collection would therefore not be compatible with the primary purpose of resource protection and, consequently, is not the preferred alternative. Current State law would remain in force and anyone collecting jade must comply with State requirements for jade collection.