The beaches of Ambergris Caye have been eroding significantly, and shorelines are fading at a rapid pace. In an effort to address the alarming issue, The San Pedro Town Council (SPTC) has reached out to a team of experts to assess the erosion affecting the island.
On Wednesday, April 13th Deputy Mayor Gary Greif, along with Keith Nichols from the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center, and Carianne Johnson from the Pan American Development Fund conducted a visual assessment to determine the level of erosion on the island’s coast line.
According to Johnson, seawalls are the major culprits for the erosion currently taking place. She commented that most of the seawalls along the shoreline are not properly built, and instead of protecting the beaches they are actually speeding the erosion process. Adding to the problem are the many docks lining the shore, which add to the effect of the wave action and shifting currents.
Nichols mentioned global warming as a major factor in increasing erosion in many countries. He also pointed out that vehicles trafficking the beach are causing enormous damage.
The lingering question is, ‘Can the beaches of Ambergris Caye be saved?’ According to Nichols, it is not an easy task, but he is optimistic. “There is not one clear solution. And the one solution we find has to apply to all the areas because it is a recurrent problem. It will require a set of studies to learn the movement of the currents around the island,” said Nichols. “However, we can start with a short term solution to prevent further damage and then apply a longer-term method to restore the integrity of the beach itself. The building of a break water structure to trap sediments will be required but before that, a study needs to be done to find out the flow of the sediment, where is it coming from, and where is it going. We also need to find a proper location to build these structures, considering the natural aspects of each location. Before we do anything, it will require further analysis.”
Currently, the SPTC is looking into investing in a beach reclamation project that would extend the beach up to a possible 15 to 20 feet from the existing shoreline; however, they agree that the necessary investigations and studies need to be done in order to avoid the further damage of the beach.
A second visit is expected as a follow up to more deeply identify and apply the possible solutions to the beach erosion. In the meantime, the SPTC along with the community will seek ways in how they can all contribute to the cause.