Beach access: Hatteras vs. Fernando De Noronha, Brazil
Why should surfers care about the beach access issues in Hatteras?
I read an article in the June 2010 Transworld Surf Magazine that I found chilling in light of the battle over beach access currently being fought on Hatteras Island. It was about the island of Fernando de Noronha, approx. 200 miles off the coast of Brazil, in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco. It bears some striking similarities to Hatteras in that it is an island wave magnet compared to the coast of Brazil and is popular with traveling surfers. It also appears that environmentalists (a.k.a enviro-crazies) have gotten their way with the management of the island.
To paraphrase the relevant portions: (on Fernando de Nononha) The most prevalent form of law enforcement here is conducted by the IBAMA, the Brazilian environmental agency responsible for protecting native plants and animals. One of their functions is making sure all surfers and swimmers exit the water and are off the beaches by 6:00 pm to protect spawning sea turtles. IBAMA agents are everywhere on the island so read and follow the rules carefully. Taking shells is prohibited and the removal of a crab specimen can be up to a $5000 fine. One IBAMA agent the writer spoke to said “it’s not rocket science to care for the environment, its just about using good common sense.”
Other things about the island that the article described and that I found interesting are that immigration, both foreign and domestic is illegal. At any given time, only 430 visitors are allowed on the island (sometimes there is a waiting list). Finally, there is a daily “environmental tax” that gets increasingly more expensive the longer you stay, thus discouraging lengthy visits.
TWS took the tack that these were good things. The island “couldn’t survive free access without being absolutely pummeled by the masses.” But, luckily it’s at least possible to pay for a visit.
Is this where we’re headed on Hatteras? I recently moved to Buxton from Southern NJ, where the beaches have long been mini-police states, replete with beach badges, lifeguards, and one block long surfing beaches on islands several miles long. Now portions of the beaches are also closed there in the “off-season” to protect turtles and plovers. How long before you have to pay to get on the beach in Hatteras? How long before an NPS “cop” pulls you out of the water at the Lighthouse and arrests you for surfing after 6 p.m.? How long before it is illegal to move to or live on Hatteras island? Hey, it happened in Brazil, why won’t it happen in America?
Surfers, act now on beach access in Hatteras if you want what you love about the place to continue to be available to you, your peers, and future generations of surfers.