Skip to main content

NEPA’s Response to Negril Seagrass Crisis

Published Date: February 15, 2024


The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) notes the concerns expressed by hoteliers in Negril regarding the clearing of seagrass from affected beaches. The unusually high volume of seagrass, seaweed and debris on the Negril shoreline was as a result of the recent weather event, i.e., a cold front and the associated storm surge, combined with heavy rainfall on the western end of the island. The storm surge deposited mounds of the material onto shore.  

NEPA is not oblivious of the exigencies of the situation and the need to act expeditiously to protect the tourism product and ultimately the country’s economy. It is therefore in favour of hoteliers undertaking their own clean-up exercises where necessary in order to alleviate the situation and to bring about quick relief. Ideally, the removal and clean-up should be done manually using non-intrusive methods, such as, hand raking or beach raking with a perforated conveyor belt to allow for the redeposit of sand. This is important in order to minimize the removal of sand during the process of clearing and to lessen the likelihood of erosion. Additionally, care must be taken to protect marine life such as sea turtles that may be nesting on the beach.

On the other hand, where the volume of deposit is great, as it is with the recent experience, hoteliers may be inclined to use heavy duty construction equipment to do the job. NEPA’s guideline in relation to this matter is that the use of heavy equipment such as tractors and front-end loaders for clearing the beach is permitted BUT requires permission, specifically because the clean-up activities are to be overseen by persons with the requisite skill sets in order to minimize the negative impact that such machinery can have on our beaches. 

The attached guidelines recently circulated to the Ministry of Tourism have been in place and has guided previous occurrences on high influx.  The agency must insist therefore that the sector interests spare the time to ensure compliance with the guidelines to reduce the likelihood of further beach loss and creating the need for enforcement intervention.  We repeat, clearance using heavy equipment may be permitted once permission is sought and obtained and the necessary oversight is in place. Where requests for permission have been made, same have been granted over the period.

NEPA would like to make it clear that it supports Jamaica’s economy and our island’s tourism and the need to protect the gains the industry has made. At the same time, it must seek to protect the Jamaica’s natural resources to ensure the long-term sustainable development of the island. In so doing, it aims to work in concert with the relevant partners and stakeholders to ensure efficiency in delivering on this mandate and to strike the right balance between development and conservation. 

Public Education and Corporate Communication Branch (PECCB)

National Environment and Planning Agency

Tel: 876-754-7540, ext. 2751;