After a weekend of heavy winds and pounding surf, some of Cayman’s world-renowned beaches are not looking their postcard-perfect selves.
An influx of seaweed and other debris has littered some beaches, and erosion’s effects can clearly be seen on others. Should we be concerned?
“Erosion has always been happening,” said DOE Deputy Director Tim Austin.
Long before anyone ever called these islands home, he said Cayman’s beaches have been going through a slow but constant transformation.
“The beach has been here in Cayman for tens of hundreds of thousands of years, and survived perfectly. It has moved all over the island, moved around, and we find sand deposits in the middle of the island,” said Mr. Austin.
He said erosion’s most striking effects are likely on display after a storm, like what Cayman 27’s camera captured a little to the west of South Sound cemetery.
“This time around we’ve had some significant loss of sand, particularly on south sound,” said Mr. Austin. “There is some very very significant erosion there, we lost a couple of turtle nests.”
Mr. Austin said while one stretch of beach is the area shrinking due to erosion, a sand peninsula a short distance away is gaining in size.
“It’s a perfectly natural phenomenon,” said Mr. Austin of erosion and sand movements. “It’s been aggravated by things like sea level rise associated with global warming, obviously a couple inches of rise of the ocean means that the setback on a horizontal plane comes a lot further.”
Over on the famous Seven Mile Beach, it’s not erosion, but an influx of seaweed that’s blemishing the typically powdery white sand.
Wednesday, crews authorised by the DOE enlisted heavy equipment to haul off tonnes of the unsightly seaweed from in front of the Kimpton Seafire hotel.
“They’re going to get it cleaned up here in the next day or so and then the beach will be back to beautiful Seven Mile Beach,” said Kimpton Seafire General Manager Stephen Andre.
While Cayman’s beaches have proven resilience to the forces mother nature throws at them, Mr. Austin suggested human intervention may be a tougher long-term challenge for them to overcome.
“So we’re seeing beaches being eaten inland by the erosion, and then obviously upland construction blocks away the beach that would have replenished it,” explained Mr. Austin.
The DOE told Cayman three turtle nests were washed away in the storm, but the DOE’s turtle team was able to save potentially hundreds of hatchlings by relocating other nests in harm’s way. The full impact of the weekend’s waves and surf on turtle nesting may become more evident later in the nesting season.