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The Case of the Disappearing Shoreline: What Happened to Jamaica’s Hellshire Beach?


Top, Hellshire Beach, January 2009. Bottom, Hellshire Beach, January 2016. Both views from Prendy’s.



So said one of my friends in passing, also back home for the holidays. I didn’t quite understand what they meant. So I gathered some of my family and friends and we set off for a Saturday outing.

As we drove, it started to occur to us that the ocean did seem a little closer. The real shock occurred when we stepped into one of the fish vendor shops.

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Shock at the ocean actually being at our feet. January 2016.

If you needed another reminder of what it looked like.

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Hellshire Beach, January 2009.

I like to keep on top of Jamaican news, and especially Jamaican environmental news. We have a lot of issues in this department. Just last year, Riverton Dump, burned for more than 8 days. No visible progress seems to be happening with the hotels agreeing with NEPA on how to save the Negril coastline. We’ve allowed foreign companies to come in and repeatedly build hotels not just on the beach but on other environmentally vulnerable locations.

But back to the Hellshire Beach shoreline.

Like any good scientist/engineer, when I got back I started to do a little bit of research. I wish I could say I was shocked when I found this article from 2011, “Hellshire Beach threatened, LIME funds study to identify solutions”, but alas, I was not. Back then, a study was commissioned to be carried out by a local coastal engineering firm Smith Warner, and “the first phase of the study will include extensive data gathering on the biological environment and the use of computer models to undertake preliminary engineering analyses.” Jamel Banton, director at Smith Warner, warned that “if the existing attrition is not reduced, the shoreline is expected to retreat further inland, thereby lessening the viability of the popular beach area for recreational and commercial activities.”

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Top, Hellshire Beach, January 2009. Bottom, Hellshire Beach, January 2016. Both views from Prendy’s.

I’d say he was correct. So what happened to this study?

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