Brandywine Bay Beach
Photo Credit: Clifton Skelton/BVI Platinum News
The beach maintenance programme throughout the Territory is battling with challenges, including low morale among some beach wardens.
In its 2009 to 2011 report, the Conservation & Fisheries Department stated that beach wardens are concerned about issues including low salaries and not being on permanent and pensionable status, despite working for more than 10 years with Government in the department. The report stated that there were also personal disagreements among themselves.
According to the department, during 2009 to 2011, this essential programme of beach maintenance which has staff posted on Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke, faced a few challenges.
It stated that on Tortola, the boarding and sale of old vehicles left the department without a pickup vehicle for the beach maintenance programme since 2010. The report stated that to ensure that the beaches were kept clean for tourists and residents, a pickup from the fisheries unit was seconded to the beach wardens, which consequently reduced the fisheries work performance.
From 2010, the department has sought permission through the budgetary process to purchase a new pickup for the beach maintenance programme; however, thus far, due to budgetary constraints, they have not been successful.
"We note that a similar vehicle situation may soon occur on Virgin Gorda where the current pickup is over 10 years old and now has many maintenance problems," the report stated.
Meanwhile, the department related that an estimated four to five tons of debris, including plastic items, glass bottles and tree leaves and branches are removed monthly from the beaches on Tortola, VG, Anegada and JVD.
In 2009, the department's staff took part in cleaning the coastline of the Fisheries Protected Area on Salt Island, while dedicated volunteers cleaned Norman Island, Virgin Gorda and Tortola. On Tortola, two hundred and forty persons from church groups, clubs and other organizations volunteered and cleaned about 9 miles of the coastline. The combined result of all the cleaning was 5,913 pounds or 2.96 tons of trash removed from the shorelines.
Also in 2009, eighteen persons conducted underwater cleanups at four islands.
According to the report, for both 2010 and 2011, the collected trash was about the same figure, coming in at 1,539 pounds or 2.96 tons. This amount came mostly from Virgin Gorda and Tortola.
Further, in 2011 the beaches and much of the BVI's coastline was awash and inundated with tons of the sargassum seaweed that increased the workload for the beach wardens. According to the report, this was an unusual natural feature that occurred not only in the BVI, but throughout most of the Caribbean islands.
The report stated that the department has not been able to ascertain good scientific facts for this mass occurrence, though they might speculate that changing sea currents and hurricane pathways with rising sea temperatures, which are all connected to climate change issues, may be responsible.
According to the report, the department received many calls from concerned citizens who thought the floating brown seaweed masses looked like oil spills or sewerage.
"Fortunately, the sargassum seaweed is harmless to the environment, though in very confined places as it decays, there can be a foul odour. Fishermen have reported catching many more 'crop fish', which seem to be juvenile hardnose jacks or a sub-species, which apparently follow the floating seaweed masses," the report stated.