Cleaning environmentally sensitive beaches will now be covered under a new guide launched today by the Environmental Resources Authority.
The new document covers a number of issues, such as how and when sea grass – Posidonia oceanica – can be removed.
It also includes other more specific sections on ecological, operational and waste management considerations.
Intended as a guide for site managers and beach cleaners, these operating procedures on beach cleaning, will apply to a number of cleaning operations, “so that these do not unduly impact the ecology of the beach,” said the ERA.
The Authority added that, they will also facilitate the environmental permitting procedure that is already in place for the cleaning of such environmentally sensitive beaches.
The ERA pointed out that the document was designed to capture environmental permitting requirements, whether these are related to nature or waste in one section, so as to facilitate the process for applicants.
The procedures described in the document, aim to attain as near a balance as possible between keeping beaches clean for the enjoyment of the general public and protecting the ecology of these environmentally sensitive beaches, the Authority said.
As a popular destination at all times of the year, beaches often have issues with accumulated litter or other waste that is left on site, the ERA said. “In addition, human debris accumulated on the shore can pose a hazard to both humans and animals if left unmanaged.”
Beach cleaning is therefore an important tool for visitor management and amenity. “However, insensitive or incautious cleaning methodologies can be detrimental to the environmental characteristics of beaches,” stated the ERA.
It stressed that adverse impacts can be particularly consequential in areas protected specifically for their environmental value. “One major environmental value is the role played by Posidonia oceanica, which provides food and habitat for a variety of species.”
Posidonia oceanica, even when washed ashore, “continues to serve important purposes – providing a place where sand collects to help build beaches and dunes and prevent erosion.”
“It also provides nutrients for coastal systems and areas where birds and other animals forage and find shelter,” said the ERA.
“As a rule, it should therefore be left in place for as long as possible during the year,” the ERA said, “especially when the incidence of rough weather is higher, so as to maintain a healthy sand budget.”
A copy of the Operating Procedures is available for download here .