Nature Foundation St Maarten Expresses Concerns about Beach Reconstruction and Cleaning with heavy equipment.

In the last week the Foundation recorded heavy equipment on several beaches, such as Great Bay Beach and Oyster Bay Beach, in order to reconstruct the beach and remove garbage and sargassum due to the passing’s of storms and swells. The Nature Foundation understand the need of removing and reconstructing after large swells changed the sediment, however has concerns regarding the usage of heavy equipment and driving on our beaches and especially on sea turtle nesting beaches. The Foundation would like St Maarten to use man power 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 the Nature Foundation first to indicate sea turtle nesting areas and/or possible nests before heavy machines enters any beach, to prevent sea turtle nests to be damaged in the future.

Beach driving and the mechanical cleaning of beaches represents one of the most common dangers for sea turtle nests. The beach driving produce vibrations in the sand, the vibration can be the reason why incubating eggs crush and are killed. Also, when a vehicle is driving above the nest, eggs can be compressed, and it is possible that they break and kill the embryos or the unhatched sea turtles. By beach driving the sand will be compressed, it gets too hard for the sea turtles to build a nest and they will leave the beach without laying egg. As well when the sand is too hard above the egg chamber, hatchlings are not able to exit the nest. Another important point is that beach driving is responsible for an accelerating erosion especially at narrow and steep beaches. As a result, nests are more frequently washed away by the sea, and no chance for the hatchlings to survive.

Beaches are protecting 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. 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, a habitat for marine life and wildlife and beaches provide coastal protection. Beach reconstruction and beach driving changes the natural fluctuations on the beach and beach reconstruction can affect coast line protection negatively.