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Jamaica has 795km (494 miles) of shoreline of which approximately 30% is characterized as sandy beach suitable for recreational use. About 4500m of the shoreline are designated as public beaches and another 2880m are used in association with hotels, guest houses and similar types of accommodation. 

Vast stretches of white sand beach provide the location for the principal resort areas, including Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. These white sand beaches originate from the offshore coral reefs as a result of the deposit of eroded material from the coral. Many of the south coast beaches are nourished by river sediments (as the offshore coral reefs are not as extensive) and are typically of black sand. 

With increased tourist and residential development along the coastal strip and the demand for exclusive use, fewer good beaches are being left available for public use. 

At present, there are eighty five (85) beaches used by the public for bathing, of which twelve (12) are commercial recreational beaches.(Map 1). There are some fifty-eight (58) bathing beaches associated with hotels (Map 2), and one hundred and twenty one (121) fishing beaches (Map 3). 

A large number of hotel beaches are located on the north coast. These beaches are generally of a high standard. The majority of these beaches are available to the general public on a fee basis, for patronage of the hotels' facilities, and some on payment of a club fee. 

Fishing beaches are relatively evenly distributed along the coast. The largest beaches are Old Harbour Bay, Hunts Bay, Greenwich Town, Rocky Point, Alligator Pond, the Rae Town Fishing Complex, Whitehouse and Port Morant. All these beaches are situated on the south coast. 

Ideally, facilities for a fully functional fishing beach should include gear sheds, individual lockers, toilets, water supply, a petrol pump, electricity, fish cleaning troughs, repair shop, cooperative store and offices, vendors' stalls and showers. 

The facilities at the majority of fishing beaches, however, are either in poor physical condition or inadequate for the fishermen. In some cases, fishermen do not have the authority to regulate activities on the beach where they operate, and so there are persons who squat and sometimes carry on other illegal activities at fishing beaches. 

A survey was recently undertaken by the NRCA to assess the status of all public bathing beaches located around the island. 

The findings were as follows: 

12 of the 85 public bathing beaches meet the minimum acceptable safety standards. The remainder are either in a state of disrepair or have no facilities on site. 
Squatting is a major problem. In addition, at some of the beaches, shacks and stalls have been built, adding to already unsanitary conditions. A large number of these beaches have also been taken over by fishermen who moor their boats on the beach. In most cases the preparation of the catch also takes place on the beach. 
30 beaches can be rehabilitated for operation on a commercial recreational basis. 
In general, bathing beaches located on the north coast have a larger sphere of influence than those located on the south coast. The entire road network system strongly influences the sphere of influence pattern, in that major roadways on the south coast are located mainly in the interior, while the major roadways on the north coast run adjacent to the coastline in many places, making those beaches more accessible.

Data on all beaches will be obtained under the Coastal Zone Management Project being carried out under a technical assistance project between the Governments of Jamaica and Sweden. 





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