Unauthorised use of the territory’s beaches has been on the rise, and the government is planning to crack down on violators including commercial operators, according to Natural Resources and Labour Minister Mitch Turnbull.

“Like any asset that is valuable, yet fragile and expected to stand the test of time, our beaches must be cared for and wisely managed,” Mr. Turnbull said last Thursday during a House of Assembly meeting, adding, “Our beaches are instead suffering from misuse and abuse and what may be described as a management crisis.”

Mr. Turnbull, whose ministry is responsible for public beach management outside of national parks, said the Virgin Islands Beach Policy approved by Cabinet in 2020 requires beach users to obtain permission for all commercial uses and certain non-commercial uses.

Non-commercial events requiring a permit include those with more than 50 people in attendance, loudspeakers, or open fires, he explained.

“This may include, for example, large or loud private parties or barbeques, public entertainment events, sporting events, family reunions, camping, church events, corporate events, cultural events and so on,” he said.

Other violations

He added that government is also encountering issues with people illegally building structures on beaches, squatting on Crown land, leaving unused beach chairs and other equipment on sandy areas, and clearing large areas of beach vegetation without permission.

“Persons are also operating without basic legal requirements like a trade licence, liquor licence and food handler’s licence,” he said. “The Beach Policy sets out parameters within which persons must operate to ensure the protection of the beach and the enjoyment of all users. For example, the policy states that no equipment or beach chairs should remain on the sandy area of the beach unless they are in use. All items not in use must be immediately removed from the sandy area.”

The minister warned the public against continuing to violate beach policies and said violators can expect unapproved activities to be shut down.

“The main purpose of my intervention today is to warn all members of the public and commercial operators that the ministry will not continue to tolerate such blatant violations around beach use and management,” Mr. Turnbull said.

The VI Beach Policy can be found at www.bvi.gov.vg/environment.