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Table of Contents
Part I
Part II
The Affected Environment
Part III
Alternatives Including Preferred Alternatives
Part IV
Consequences of Alternatives
Part V
Management Plan
Part VI
List of Preparers and Acknowledgements
Part VII
List of DSEIS/MP Recipients
Appendix A
NMSP Regulations
Appendix B
Proposed Rule for Jade Collection
Appendix C
Response to Comments
Appendix D
Existing Relevant Authorities
Appendix E

II. The Affected Environment

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Please refer to Part II of the FEIS/MP for the MBNMS for a complete description of the resources of the MBNMS. The following provides additional information specific to the Jade Cove area within the Sanctuary.

Jade Cove Area


The Jade Cove area is a series of small coves located south of Point Sur, approximately 95 km (60 miles) south of Monterey. The shore consists mainly of cobble and pebble beaches found at the base of nearly vertical cliffs. The coastal area is very dynamic, subject to strong waves and tides, and, in the winter, sudden storms. Primary access to the area is provided by California Highway #1. Jade Cove and other inlets are accessible by boat and usually accessible on land only by hiking, or in the case of Willow Creek, by driving, down steep inclines.

The land from the uplands to the mean high line mark is part of the Los Padres National Forest and is overseen by the U.S. Forest Service. Submerged land below mean high tide and out to three nautical miles from the coastline is owned by the State of California and is part of the MBNMS.


Jade is one of the hardest known minerals, to the point of being nearly unbreakable (Crippen, 1951). Jade is found in two forms: jadeite (a distinct mineral species) and nephrite (a compact fibrous tremolite-actinolite, not a distinct species) (Wright, 1957). All of the jade found in Jade Cove is nephrite. Jade occurs in a variety of colors, from blue to green to black; jade in the Jade Cove area tends to be green (Barada, 1974), from light to almost black, with the shade dependent upon the nature of the impurities in the stone (Watkins, 1991).

In the Jade Cove area, jade occurs in small pods and nodules in the clay-like serpentine bedrock formation (Crippen, 1951), extending down the cliffs and into the seabed. The Jade Cove area has the "only large deposits of jade ever found underwater" (Barada, 1974). Constant water motion by the waves and tides erodes the veins and sometimes frees the jade. It is found primarily as pebbles or larger stones on the shore and seabed, and as revealed deposits on the seafloor. Occasionally, larger boulders are deposited on the seabed by geologic and hydrologic forces.

The jade quality ranges from very poor and subject to layering, to gem quality (Patchick, 1974). The best quality pieces tend to be the smaller pebbles, since wave action has ground them down to the most durable part (Bergsten, 1964). Botryoidal jade is a unique form of the mineral found only in the subject area (Hemrich, 1966); it has a surface formed of protuberances that give it an appearance rather like a cluster of grapes (Crippen, 1951).

Estimates as to the amount of jade in the Jade Cove area remain unclear. There are indications that the supply of jade is plentiful:

  • constant erosion at the site replenishes the supply of jade (Bergsten, 1964);
  • possible to collect your "weight in jade" in a day's collection (Skin Diver, 1969)
  • "still productive...jade source is offshore and there is a continual replenishment of the dislodged material on the beaches" (Phillips, 1977); and
  • Jade Cove area, including the terrestrial portion, contains a considerable amount of jade (Hemrich, 1983).

There are also assertions that there is less jade than ever before:

  • "fairly picked over" (Jackson, 1972);
  • "tough to find even one small piece nowadays" (Patchick, 1974);
  • botryoidal form almost completely absent (Patchick, 1974);
  • still possible to find small pieces (Knox & Rodriguez, 1978)
  • "at the very small pieces and very scarce" (Ferguson, 1980);
  • "scarce" (Cooper and Hogan, 1987);
  • "getting scarce" and "tough to find" (Watkins, 1991); and
  • appears to be less jade now than in past years (D. Wobber, personal communication, November 1993).

Because most of the jade in the Jade Cove area is present in smaller pods and nodules, not in veins, it is difficult to assess or measure the size of the find. The largest known nephrite pod in the Cape San Martin region (found at Willow Creek) is at least 15 feet long and an unknown depth. By comparison, a jadeite pod in San Benito County, California measures at least 200 feet by 50 feet (Wright, 1957). During the preparation of the DSEIS/MP, NOAA received information at a meeting of the MBNMS Advisory Council in June 1994 from a geologist from the U.S. Geological Survey, indicating that historic collection had not "limited" the jade resource and she did not believe that future collections at the same level would "limit" the jade resource.

Other Natural Resources of the Jade Cove Area

In the calmer spring and summer months, forests of palm, giant, bull, and feather boa kelp flourish in nearshore areas of the Jade Cove region; rougher seas and storms in the winter tend to break down the kelp growth. The benthic habitat consists of large rocks and boulders interspersed with gravel patches. Benthic organisms present include red coralline algae, sea cucumbers, abalone, and anemones (Watkins, 1991; NOAA, 1994). Lingcod, cabezon, and rockfish frequent the area. Jade serves as a home for benthic organisms, including algae and bryozoans (Wobber, 1975; Dahlstrom, 1989; Watkins, 1991).

At least two onshore colonies of seabirds and a high autumn concentration of pelicans have been noted in the region (NOAA, 1992). Large numbers of Brandt's cormorants are present throughout the year (NOAA, 1994). Sea otters are known to frequent the area and there is at least one pinniped haulout area in the Cape San Martin locale (NOAA, 1992). Gray whales migrate offshore between December and March (NOAA, 1992).

Cultural and Historical Resources

The FEIS/MP (NOAA, 1992) does not document any significant cultural or historical resources in the subject area.

Jade Collection Activities

Anecdotal information indicates that a thriving jade collection trade, or "Jade Rush," flourished in the 1870's, primarily by immigrant Chinese miners (León, 1984; Watkins, 1991). Later collection efforts were focused on "blasting away" the sides of cliffs above the sea and using large machinery, trucks, and boats to remove jade (Watkins, 1991). The Los Padres National Forest does not specifically prohibit jade collection; however, the creation of the National Forest made the coastline subject to the 1872 Mining Act and other Federal mining laws which require claims and permitting of mining activities. Largely because of concerns about cliff erosion, the U.S. Forest Service has effectively prohibited upland mining activities in the Los Padres National Forest (personal communication, D. Zechempmayer, June 1995).

Submarine deposits of jade were first "discovered" in the Jade Cove area in 1941 and later "rediscovered" in 1947 (Desautels, 1986). Apparently, it proved a popular site for jade collection almost immediately. Bergsten (1964) states that, outside the State of Wyoming, this area has "been more persistently hunted than any other jade location in America." Sinkankas (1976) notes that "many tons" of boulders and pebbles have been removed from the beaches.

Jade removed from below mean high tide varies in size from small pebbles to large boulders (Bergsten, 1964; Desautels, 1986). Sources list separate removals of boulders of such sizes as 120 pounds (Patchick, 1974); 300 pounds (Wobber, 1986); 700 and 2,400 pounds (Barada, 1974); 1,800 pounds (Dahlstrom, 1989); 9,000 pounds (Barada, 1974; Wobber, 1975); and boulders weighing thousands of pounds (Bergsten, 1964). Boulders of up to 3,000 pounds were discovered by "collectors who conducted exploratory and recovery operations from moored pontoon rafts" (Sinkankas, 1976). Although boulders are now scarce, there is evidence that they were once more common: in 1987, a local collector reported finding at least one large boulder a year between 1973 and 1978 (National Geographic, 1987).

The purposes for which jade is collected vary. Some individuals collect for their own enjoyment and for no intention of profit. Others, however, collect jade and sell either the raw material or a finished product requiring processing of some kind. Various sources mention jade made into jewelry (Skin Diver, 1969 and Phillips, 1977); jade sold in local shops (Ruzic, 1971; Patchick, 1974; Cooper, 1987; NOAA staff observations, 1994 and 1995); jade being sold to private individuals (Wobber, 1986); or place specific dollar values on jade (Ruzic, 1971; Patchick, 1974). Some estimates state that $1 million worth of jade has been removed from the area (León, 1984; Knox and Rodriguez, 1989). The latter also goes so far as to say that "fine Pacific Blue jade, found nowhere else in the world, is worth $200 a pound. Prize specimens of this color are sought by collectors world over." It is, however, cheaper to import jade from foreign sources than to mine it domestically (Barada, 1974).

Over the years, examples have been recorded of the seabed being disturbed by manipulation in order to remove jade that was attached in some way to the seabed. The following are specific examples of tools used:

  • a pick (Wobber, 1975);
  • chisel and sledge hammer (Wobber, 1976);
  • a "portapower" (a hydraulic tool) (Wobber, 1976); and
  • rock hammers (Watkins, 1991).

An article by Ferguson (1980) shows a diver chipping at a ledge in order to obtain jade from underneath. Divers or rock hunters were advised to bring tools such as an abalone iron or rock hammer for "digging out pieces of jade from between rocks" (Watkins, 1991). In one case, an electric winch was used to haul a jade boulder from the beach to a truck (Dahlstrom, 1989).

Other Human Activities in the Jade Cove Area

Given the isolated nature and low resident population of the area, most people are visitors and are generally engaged in non-intrusive recreational pursuits such as camping, nature observation, photography, or diving.

URL:    Reviewed: November 20, 2017
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