Concerns over use of heavy equipment for beach reconstruction and cleaning | THE DAILY HERALD

 In photo: Heavy equipment cleaning up Great Bay Beach and Boardwalk Boulevard after the swells caused by Tropical Storm Karen last week.

COLE BAY–In the last week, Nature Foundation St. Maarten recorded the presence of heavy equipment on several beaches, such as Great Bay Beach and Oyster Bay Beach, to reconstruct the beach and remove garbage and Sargassum seaweed due to the passing of storms and swells.

  Nature Foundation said it understands the need for removing and reconstructing after large swells changed the sediment, but expressed concerns regarding the use of heavy equipment driving on beaches, and especially on beaches with sea turtle nests.

  The Foundation would like country St. Maarten to use manpower to clean garbage and Sargassum from sea-turtle nesting beaches, or look into alternative options to clean the beach. The Foundation also urges beach cleaners with heavy equipment to contact them first to indicate sea turtle nesting areas and/or possible nests before heavy machines enter any beach, to prevent sea turtle nests from being damaged in the future.

 Beach driving and the mechanical cleaning of beaches represent the most common dangers for sea turtle nests. Beach driving produces vibrations in the sand, which may crush incubating eggs. Also, when a vehicle is driving above a nest, eggs may be compressed and broken, killing the embryos or the unhatched sea turtles.

  Beach driving causes the sand to be compressed, making it too hard for sea turtles to build a nest, causing them to leave the beach without laying eggs. When the sand is too hard above the egg chamber, hatchlings are also unable to exit the nest.

  Beach driving is responsible for accelerating erosion, especially at narrow and steep beaches, Nature Foundation said. As a result, nests are more frequently washed away by the sea, leaving no chance for the hatchlings to survive.

  “Beaches protect us from storm surge during hurricanes and tropical storms. However, sand that has been driven on, or used as a parking area becomes loose and erodes easily, causing beach erosion. Besides, driving on beaches can cause the lower sand layers to increase in density making the beach more prone to over-wash during storms and swells,” the Foundation said.

  “A beach is not intended for any type of vehicle, as vehicles can also leak fuels, oils and liquids which pollute our beach, marine life and environment. The beaches are the most important natural resource for St. Maarten, and a large tourist attraction. It is intended for recreational activities, sea turtle nesting, as a habitat for marine life and wildlife, and beaches provide coastal protection. Beach reconstruction and beach driving change the natural fluctuations on the beach, and beach reconstruction can affect coastline protection negatively.”

Source: The Daily Herald