The mining of sand resources from the inner continental shelf for beach nourishment may lead to impacts or increase stress on commercial and noncommercial living resources that utilize these areas. The objective of our work was to characterize benthos present in areas likely to be mined and to predict impacts of sand mining. In 1998 and 1999 we used a combination of methods (grab samples, sediment profile cameras, video sled, and trawl) to collect data on the benthos, both fishes and invertebrates, which utilized several potential sand mining areas. We found benthic communities and fish assemblages to be typical of middle Atlantic sandy inner continental shelf habitats. A sand mining scenario that removed the top meter of sand from Fenwick Shoal would disturb approximately 7.7 km2 with the potential acute impact on noncommercial sessile species being the loss of about 150 × 106 individuals representing 300 kg of wet weight biomass that could have functioned as trophic support to fishes. In addition, mobile species would be displaced and have to search for replacement habitat. To minimize impacts and promote recolonization of mined areas the total removal of substrate should be avoided. Small areas with a project area should be left to serve as refuge patches that would promote recolonization and serve as habitat for mobile species. Predicted impacts on demersal fishes would be lessened by a rapid recolonization, particularly the recovery of mobile epifaunal crustacean that serve as the primary trophic support species. Project timing and engineering could also be used to lessen impacts on fishes by reducing stress on crustaceans. For example, mining activities that ended in time for Spring/Summer recruitment would favor crustaceans while a Fall/Winter end would favor annelids.
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Vol. 20 • No. 1