Frequently Asked Questions

High waves (winter swells) are generated during the winter months from November to April as a result of extra-regional storms, affecting the Eastern Caribbean islands. During the winter months (November to April), very intense low-pressure systems in the North Atlantic Ocean generate storm waves, which travel south as swells to affect the island. While the waves are experienced on the north, west and east coasts, the most severe effects are felt on the west coast since these experience only low wave energy for most of the year. The south coast beaches also experience erosion during this period from the indirect effect of wrap-around waves from the west and east coasts.

The principal coastal engineering structures used in Barbados are seawalls, revetments, groynes, and breakwaters. Each serves a special purpose and each affects the shoreline in a different manner. Seawalls and revetments are used to protect coastal development from sea storm waves and erosion while groynes and breakwaters are used to promote beach accretion (build-up). For further information please see Shoreline and Property Protection Options under CZMU Pamphlets.

The CZMU works to protect the marine environment by both physical monitoring as well as the development of pertinent policies and legislation. The CZMU has taken over the management of the permanent mooring project in an effort to prevent further anchor damage, and has jointly expanded the Carlisle Bay snorkel/dive site by continuing to sink additional wrecks in an effort to divert diver pressure. The CZMU has carried out three extensive coral transplantation exercises, which relocated in one case over 700 coral colonies from the Harbour, to the Folkestone MPA. The Unit has also conducted coral disease and coral bleaching monitoring project, as well as a video-based coral reef/water quality monitoring programme.

There are many ways to help protect the marine environment:

  • First, dispose of all garbage correctly and recycle as much as possible. That way garbage such as plastic bags, cups and plates won't end up in the marine environment where it can harm coral reefs or marine animals. Remember, all gullies eventually lead to the sea, so don't dump your garbage there!
  • Second, take part in beach and/or underwater cleanups. This will reduce the amount of garbage that is already in the marine environment and prevent it from causing further damage.
  • Lastly, don't buy or collect items from the marine environment such as coral (living or dead), sea eggs (out of the harvesting season), or turtle products. This will help to ensure that there is not a market for these items and hopefully will dissuade people from illegally harvesting them.

Reef health varies by location, being influenced mainly by distance offshore and proximity to land-based sources of marine pollution.
Since at least 1982 there has been generally a net deterioration of the coral reefs off Barbados . This decrease in reef health has been documented on both the south and west coasts. The decline has affected both the fringing and the bank reefs. More specifically, hard coral abundance, the number of hard coral species, and the abundance of encrusting coralline algae, which acts as a settlement cue for coral recruits, decreased significantly between the 1982 and the 1992 monitoring. The abundance of turf algae, which often out competes with hard corals for space on the substrate, however increased significantly during the same period. The CZMU/Bellairs Research Institute monitoring has so far identified 32 hard coral species, and in 1997 detected some recovery on the south and west coasts bank reef sites, with hard coral abundance averaging at 30.7% at the Speightstown site. Reef conditions in 1997 were however not as good as they were in 1982.

The 1998 East Coast Study was the first time Barbados ' Atlantic coast was monitored so no trends could be detected. However, it was still evident that the east coast has been negatively impacted by removal of vegetation, eutrophication and over fishing (removal or grazers). Some areas of the east coast are ecological assets, probably being the richest reef tract, in terms of hard corals, in Barbados and among the richest, in terms of hard coral cover and diversity in the Caribbean (Halcrow 1998). Some of the 1998 transects topped 35% hard coral coverage. Some sections of the east coast also support the rare black coral Antipathes sp., the Elk horn coral Acropora palmata and the Nassau grouper.

Living corals have an essential association with microscopic algae (called zooxanthellae). These algae actually live inside the coral's tissues in a symbiotic partnership, which means the corals and the algae benefit from each other. Corals provide the algae with a safe home and with a ready supply of carbon dioxide and nitrogen products which the algal plants need to survive, while the algae provide their coral hosts with sugars and other nutrients which keep them well fed and healthy. By removing the corals' waste products (carbon dioxide and nitrogen products) the algae also make sure that the corals stay healthy and able to build their calcium carbonate skeletons. It is actually these same algae which add colour to corals and help to create the fabulous array of colours we associate with coral reefs.
For reasons which are still unclear, this partnership with the zooxanthellae breaks down when corals are stressed. The corals lose the algae from their tissues, becoming much paler than normal and eventually, if all algae are lost, the corals become a vivid white colour, as if they had been bleached. This is where the term bleaching' comes from. Bleached corals are not dead, and will frequently recover from such an event. However, if the source of stress stays for many weeks, so that corals remain bleached, they will stop growing and will actually starve to death.

The total area of reef around Barbados is approximately 18 km 2 made up of fringing and bank reefs on the north and west coast of the Island , and patch and bank reefs of the south and bank reefs on the east coast.

Corals are tiny, anemone like animals, which build skeletons of limestone around their bodies to collectively form the largest biogenic (biologically generated) structures on this planet.

No they are animals. They belong to a group of corals called gorgonians, which possess a central skeleton of gorgonin (protein), which allows for their flexibility.

All permitted development has undergone the scrutiny of the relevant regulatory agencies (e.g. TCDPO, Environmental Protection Department, and the CZMU). The submission of an environmental impact assessment by the developer is a basic requirement. All land-based sources of marine pollution fall under the strict control of the Environmental Protection Department (EPD).

Textile industry, chemical industry producing non-metallic mineral products, petroleum refinery, plastics industry, sanitary services, food beverage and tobacco, electronic equipment, fabricated metal products, paper products and printing; handicraft and other manufacturers.

The CZMU's contribution towards public education via:

  • CZMU's publication of our On & Offshore Newsletters
  • Lectures/ Presentations
  • Water World
  • CZMU Library
  • Mentorship programmes with students of the University of the West Indies (UWI).
  • Internship Programme
  • One-on-One consultations with students

Collaboration with other agencies such as the National Conservation Commission (NCC), the UWI and the Caribbean Conservation Association (CCA) in their Education Outreach Programme.


  • Where a beach is present there is a thirty metre (30m) setback from the High Water Mark for building construction.
  • Where a cliff top exists there is a ten metre (10m) setback from the most landward point of cliff undercut for building construction.

Exceptions to this rule may occur however:

  • Increased setbacks may be as a result of policy put in place to preserve and conserve unique landscape features along the coastline.
  • Decreases setbacks may occur in areas where there are existing buildings.

All rules/ legislation apply to everyone without exception.

Any coastal development may be in violation of the setback requirements for a number of reasons. Such reasons may include:

  • Illegal erection of a structure, which if observed by the CZMU is reported to the Town Planning Office for enforcement.
  • Coastal erosion has occurred at the site, making a structure which at the time of construction was compliant with setback requirements, no longer compliant.
  • The structure may have been erected at a time which predated the current planning policy.

The entry requirements vary depending on the post of interest. For further information contact the CZMU.

The entry requirements vary depending on the post of interest. For further information contact the CZMU.

There are twenty-six (26) staff members at the CZMU, inclusive of technical and administrative personnel.

To encourage and ensure the sustainable use of the coastal zone management area by implementing policies which maintain, and where possible, enhance environmental quality while enabling economic development. This is done through an effective legal, institutional and administrative structure designed to implement integrated coastal management.

Bay Street, St. Michael, next to Browne's beach car park.

Barbados' coastline is 92km.

Sediment Sources

The sediment found on the beaches of Barbados is typical of most Caribbean beaches derived from bio-erosion and grazing of reef systems located within the nearshore. These processes are illustrated in the figure below.

Sediment Generation Processes

Source: A Brief Analysis of Sediment on the Beaches of Barbados(Risk M. 2004)



Barbados is affected primarily by waves generated by the following:

  • NE Trade Winds
  • North Atlantic Ocean Swells
  • Hurricane and Storm Activity

The figure below illustrates these three mechanisms of wave generation and their relative direction of approach to the island.

Wave Generation Mechanisms for Barbados

Source: Barbados Wave Climate Analysis, Baird and Associates (2003)

Long period swells originate from storm activity in the North Atlantic and propagate to the shoreline of Barbados . These waves, due to their long periods, 12 seconds and greater, have the tendency to wrap around the eastern shoreline and affect the south coast of the island.

The North East trade winds result from the pressure gradient that exists due to rising air at the equator. These trade winds that blow within the vicinity of Barbados cause locally generated seas.

Hurricanes and storms form over tropical waters (between 8° and 20° latitude) in areas of high humidity, light winds, and warm sea surface temperatures (typically 26.5°C or greater). These conditions usually prevail in the summer and early fall months of the tropical North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans and for this reason, hurricane 'season' in the northern hemisphere runs from June through November. These systems typically form east of Barbados and travel west, generally passing north of the island.

Yes, an appointment can be made in advance with our resident Library Assistant.