Beach erosion is a seasonal and natural event and not every instance requires immediate intervention.
That is according to acting director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) Lorna Inniss, against the background of recent concerns about erosion at Brighton Beach in St Michael.
She explained that while the CZMU had a “vigorous and vibrant beach profile-monitoring programme”, it would not be wise to always try to correct erosion immediately.
“Every beach that is eroding does not require intervention because you look at the seasonal and natural ebb and flow of sediment onto a beach and we are able to determine whether we should intervene artificially because our intervention into a natural process changes the process,” she said.
“So we don’t want to do that lightly. You want to make sure that when a beach erodes it may erode for a long enough period or to an extent that it requires intervention. Our modeling and analysis will tell us that.”
Inniss said the CZMU would measure the changes in the volume of sand and the width of the approximately 100 beaches on a quarterly basis and monitor them over time.
“This is not just crucial to our science, it is important to disaster management and it is also important to the tourism sector,” she explained.
“What we do is maintain a portfolio of what we call hot spots and usually from one of our projects to the next we are then looking at that list of hot spots so we can address the issues there.”
The beaches at Holetown in St James and Welches in Christ Church were considered hot spots and redevelopment projects were carried out in those areas.
Pointing to beaches in the wider Holetown area, following the recently concluded waterfront improvement project, Inniss said it was also important that healthy coral reefs were also maintained to guard against beach erosion and ultimately other coastal hazards.
“You have what we call the natural lines of defence – the coral reefs, the barrier reefs that are pretty far out. They are our principal barrier against any high-energy waves that come in . . . so it is in our best interest first and foremost to protect those barrier reefs,” the CZMU official said.
She added that rising temperatures could also cause stress on those reefs, diseases, coral bleaching and, in some cases, death.
“The fringing reefs are closer into shore and they are being affected by the same thing. But along with that you have some issues of run-off from the land that would be affecting them as well. They also exist within a very narrow window of water depth,” Inniss explained.
The biologist said rising sea levels also had an impact on the coastline and its reefs.