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Barbados conservationist to discuss beach management

Carlos Gilkes, technical officer for the National Conservation Commission of Barbados (Photograph supplied)

Beach management projects that benefit tourism while protecting natural habitats will be discussed during a presentation taking place at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute on Saturday.

Carlos Gilkes, technical officer at the National Conservation Commission of Barbados, will speak on the challenges faced in coastal areas and the solutions that are in place to mitigate risks.

The mission of the government organisation is to create a sustainable development programme “underpinned by leading edge environment policies, practices and programmes that protect all aspects of our environment, our water resources and quality of life".

Mr Gilkes said: “NCC’s main role is the beautification of public spaces, parks, historic sites and monuments in Barbados while maintaining public access.

“One of the main reasons for our beach management programmes is to manage biodiversity, coral reefs, mangrove systems and seagrass beds so you can retain their ecosystem services. They also provide a way to limit conflicts such as beach use and development.

“All our agencies work together, which is especially important in small island nations. For us we have the Environmental Protection Department, which deals with water quality, the Tourism Department that tries to ensure coastlines are in good condition and the Town and Country Planning Office, which takes care of development in coastal areas. We have all the agencies on the same page.”

Mr Gilkes specialises in the management of protected areas, specifically Folkestone Marine Reserve, which is the only marine protected area in Barbados.

He has worked at the NCC since 1994 in various roles including lifeguard, naturalist, and boat operator.

His talk will cover the many sides of beach management, including beach maintenance, beach risk analysis, beach carrying capacity, beach stability mapping and communication planning.

One example he gives of a successful beach management plan was in April of this year when rough seas uprooted coconut trees on the south coast of Barbados.

“We have a lot of coconut trees there but they fell,” he explained. “We noted that the root system of the trees is too shallow and could not take the sand load. It was detrimental to the safety of turtle populations because they couldn’t dig their way out using the root system.

“We decided the better option is to use sea grape trees because the root system is more stabilising than that of coconut trees. They will now protect that beach area.”

Mr Gilkes also spoke of a rigorous process in place for development of beach front areas. This is to ensure marine habitats are safeguarded while public access to beaches is maintained.

“If you want to develop beach front property, you have to apply and the application will be reviewed by all stakeholders before any changes can be made.

“With tourism being our main industry, beaches make significant contribution to the economic development of the country. Our beach space means quite a bit to us.”

The talk takes place from 4pm to 5pm on May 21 at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. Tickets are $20 or $15 for BUEI members and are available by calling 294-0204 or by visiting BUEI’s Ocean Gift Shop.

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Published May 19, 2022 at 7:47 am (Updated May 19, 2022 at 7:47 am)

Barbados conservationist to discuss beach management

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