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HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Beach work ‘endangers’ turtles

HEATHER-LYNN EVANSON, [email protected]

HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Beach work ‘endangers’ turtles

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THE BARBADOS SEA TURTLE PROJECT is raising the red flag about beach work being carried out on the West Coast.

While the seemingly new trend of placing groynes on stretches is, on the face of it, creating what looks like sandy white beaches, what it is actually creating, said the project’s field director Dr Darren Browne, are beaches which are less stable and less friendly for nesting turtles.

And this, coupled with the encroachment of development on the West Coast, will have a negative impact on the species that is still considered to be endangered.

“One of the things we have been trying to explain to a lot of the property owners on the West Coast is that with the increasing number of groynes and breakwaters and so on, you can guarantee that beach builds up at certain points but that beach is less stable than the beach that is naturally accumulated in those areas,” he explained.

In addition, the field director noted that when groynes were placed in the water, the beach south of the groyne builds up, but the beach north of them erodes. And so another groyne is placed to replenish that beach to the north.

“And then that builds up beach south of it and then the beach north of it is starved. It is just a continuous cycle. You put down one groyne and eventually you have to put down 20 just to have beach.”

And it is already having an impact.

“In places like Heron Bay we’ve had to do something like 15 to 20 relocations in the last two weeks at Heron Bay,” he revealed.

“The beach is just being eroded and you’re seeing a circle filled with eggs sticking out of the eroded berm, and so we just have to get those out and move them. And one of our problems is that we cannot relocate everything.”

Browne said the project had been trying to explain the problem to construction companies and big property owners through its website.

“I remembered we posted and we got some comments from a person. The way that he was commenting, I got the impression that he was involved either in the construction or as a property owner.

“And I remember him saying, ‘Oh well, these groynes are harmless. They are this many of this project that has been done all along the West Coast and they are building beaches. If I was a turtle I would prefer to nest on that beach’.

“And we were trying to explain to him turtles don’t assess from the water, the quality of the beach. They come up, they try and then based on whether or not they were successful, they head back in.”

Browne also said he tried to explain that while the island was still seeing a number of turtles coming up to nest on the West Coast, those were turtles which hatched 20, 30, even 40 years ago.

“But what’s happening is the beach is less stable and so the eggs that those turtles lay are less likely to successfully hatch. So when those turtles which are 25, 30, 40 years start getting old and dying off, and in another 20 or 25 years or so when their eggs would have been the turtles coming back in, then we suddenly see a drop-off in turtles.

“What somebody like him might be saying is, we put up all these groynes and the beach looks lovely, but where are all the turtles?” (HLE)