SOS Tartarugas works in Cape Verde protecting nesting loggerheads turtles (Caretta caretta) and their habitat. Cape Verde is the third most important nesting area for loggerheads in the world. Turtles are at risk from hunting for meat, stealing of eggs, removal of sand for building and unregulated tourism development. Our email is
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Friday, December 21, 2012

5 Days to save Ponta Preta

Stop the breakwater!  Pare a quebra-mar!  

 Send your comments to / Envie seu comentario para 
Antes de 26 Dezembro 2012.   

BALNEARES submetido pelo Melia Llana Beach, pelas seguintes razões:
1. Eu não quero ver o mar (praia) de Algodoeiro torna-se um Gueto turistico, com praias privadas.
2. Estou preocupada com o impacto ambiental, em particular com as tartarugas marinhas.
3. Estou preocupada com a formação das ondas da mundialmente famosa praia de Ponta Pret.

I object to the proposal INTERVENÇÕES PARA MELHORIA DAS CONDIÇÕES BALNEARES submitted by Melia Llana Beach for the following reasons:
1. I do not wish to see Algodoeiro become a tourist ghetto, with  'private' beaches.
2. I am concerned about the impact to the environment, particularly to marine turtles.
3. I am concerned about the disruption of the world famous break at Ponta Preta.

Download the full proposal here.

Breakwater on Algodoeiro may benefit tourists but could have a big impact on the environment.

The Resort Group plans to build a breakwater on Algodoeiro (the west coast of Sal), the purpose of which is to improve swimming for tourists at their three hotels.  Algodoeiro has a layer of rocks that are uncovered at low tide meaning that once or twice a day, to be able to swim there tourists must walk across the rocks.

The project involves the construction of two breakwaters perpendicular to the coastline, creating a beach in the middle.  It has been rumoured that the cost of such a plan is €3,000,000 plus ongoing maintenance costs).  The initial plan that was considered enclosed a much larger area and and included dredging a 3000m2 area of the seafloor.

The final plan that has been submitted for assesment by the General Directorate of the Environment and other authorities, is shown below. 

As part of the plan, the rocks under the sea will be removed (possibly by using explosives).  The breakwaters will then be built as shown  Since the sand will accumulate on either side of the breakwater and not inside, the beach must be replenished by artificial means - either by importing it or by finding a source from another part of the island.

The study was completed by WW-Hydraulic Consultants and Construction Maritime SA on behalf of The Resort Group between July and September 2012 and looked at the various negative and positive impacts of such a project.

The positive impacts include more comfortable swimming conditions for visitors to Sal, some extra, temporary jobs and the creation of an artificial reef (replacing the existing natural reef).  However, other aspects could be quite negative and concerns about this project include:

1.     The exact position & size of the proposed breakwater has not been defined.
2.     The disruption to the beach during the construction phase.  The proposal includes closing a section of the beach and heavy machinery will create noise and dust. 
3.     The length or timing of the proposed works have not been included in the document.
4.     The impact on the movement of sand  (building up on the north side of the breakwater and not replenishing on the south).
5.     The need to replenish the sand inside the breakwater with sand from another area thereby changing the ecology of the coast.
6.     The destruction of the marine life that currently inhabit the rocky areas.
7.     An impact on the wave action that may disrupt surfing, windsurfing & kitesurfing in the world famous beach of Ponta Preta.
8.     The consultant's limited study time (3 months) may not be sufficient to understand the long term impact.
9.     The impact on endangered and protected loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta including disruption of the beach during the nesting season (noise, lights & obstructions) and the walls preventing them exiting the sea to lay their nests.
10.  This zone is part of Cape Verde's network of Protected Areas (PCSAPCV) and this kind of project is not permitted under the management plan.

Naturally, for SOS Tartarugas, the biggest concern is about the impact to the turtles.  For some reason, no data or reports from this organisation, which has six years experience of monitoring the ecology of Algodoeiro, has been used in the preparation of the breakwater proposal.  

The proposal states that the area is not important for turtles as  "the location is outside the preferred areas for nesting turtles since it is rocky.  The species only nests in sandy places and without obstructions to facilitate the exit of adults and the entry of juveniles. "   A map of Sal has been included in the proposal.  This map is nota a map of nesting areas but is a map which is used by the City Hall of Sal and SOS Tartarugas to define the main monitoring points (soldier's stations, camps etc) that are important for the prevention of hunting of turtles.

Unfortunately the authors of the proposal have misinterpreted this map and believe it to mean that the turtles ONLY nest exactly at the yellow numbered dots.

"As can be seen in the figure below, which shows the areas of the island of Sal where there is prevalence of turtle nesting, the zone under study is not included in the areas used by this species for the purpose of nesting.
In this sense, it is safe to assume that the project area is an area of ​​little or no influence of sea turtles, it is not used for nesting by the same fact that a zone with enough rocks on the shore and therefore in the project will have negative impact on this species.  By observing the figure below it can be seen that the project area is located between the points 4 & 5, these points identified as spawning areas. " 

It is of great concern that the consultants spent the summer in Sal and did not contact SOS Tartarugas or make use of the reports & scientific papers which have been submitted to The Resort Group about the nesting zone and the impact of development.  This has resulted in the significance of this area to nesting turtles not being taken into consideration. 

The real picture can be seen below (the proposed construction is in front of the red box)

The coloured dots represent areas of turtle activity over the last five years.  It can be seen that directly in front of Melia Llana Beach where the proposed breakwater will go has a significant number of nests.

The lack of understanding of the behaviour and biology of loggerhead turtles is obvious in this report and the assumptions made are incorrect for two reasons:
1. if rocks are exposed are at low tide it does not matter because turtles will exit the beach on high tide.
2. turtles do not come out of the sea and nest directly in front of the place that they exited.  They may walk diagonally or in a random way and often choose to nest in a place far away from the original exit point.

Algodoeiro is a unique place for turtles on Sal, with a different ecology to other beaches.  In addition, a genetic study has stated that the turtles that nest on this coastline have differences in make up than those that nest on other beaches.  Therefore it is not enough to state that turtles will find other areas as the issues are more complicated than that. 

The proposal itself states that the project should not "Cause the destruction or damage of sensitive environmental areas"  or "involve any extinction of or affect any species with special status of protection".  However it does seem that the project would create some serious negative impacts in both of these case should it go ahead.

Given that the main purpose is to allow tourists to enter the sea at low tide, this project does not seem out of balance when the massive cost, both in terms of money and environmental impact is taken into consideration.

The public consultation period ends on December 27th, 2012.  To voice your support or concerns please email or or leave your comments at the Library in Espargos.

1 comment:

  1. Well done Jacquie. Amazing that they're even considering it! I hope to god it doesn't get passed!