Beach access rights in Jamaica
Claudia Gardner, Assignment Coordinator
The issue of rights of access to beaches has been a bone of contention for a large number of Jamaicans, many of whom believe that the number of public beaches available to them have significantly declined over the years.
There are several pieces of legislation which address the issue of access to beaches. Among them is Jamaica's Prescription Act, which deals with the matter of prescriptive rights to beaches. A prescriptive right is defined as the right of access to another's property due to continued use over a specific number of years.
According to the Prescription Act: "When any beach has been used by the public or any class of the public for fishing, or for purposes incident to fishing, or for bathing or recreation, and any road, track or pathway passing over any land adjoining or adjacent to such beach has been used by the public or any class of the public as a means of access to such beach, without interruption for the full period of twenty years, the public shall, subject to the provisos hereinafter contained, have the absolute and indefeasible right to use such beach, land, road, track or pathway as aforesaid, unless it shall appear that the same was enjoyed by some consent or agreement expressly made or given for that purpose by deed or writing".
The provisions of the Beach Control Act, which governs the use of Jamaica's beaches, also dictates that "any person who is the owner or occupier of any land adjoining any part of the foreshore and any member of his family and any private guest of his shall be entitled to use that part of the foreshore adjoining his land for private domestic purposes, that is to say for bathing, fishing and other forms of recreation and as a means of access to the sea for such purposes".
Jamaica's Policy for the Management of the Beach, Foreshore and Floor of the Sea, in its situation analysis, notes that the discussion of public access to beaches is usually "focused on the sense of exclusion that some people have from hotel beaches, which are some of the better beaches in Jamaica". The document also notes that there are also, at present, few operational public bathing beaches and commercial recreational beaches.