The health, beauty and ecosystem of our beaches is under threat

The driving cause for most of these problems is overdevelopment and poor coastal management. If no buildings crowded the shoreline, there would be no shoreline armoring, beach nourishment, threats to the beach fauna and flora or shoreline erosion problems.

Coastal Care Introduction

“Beach sand: so common, so complex, so perfect for sandcastles; and now it is a precious and vanishing resource.”

—Orrin H. Pilkey

Beaches are the most visited natural attraction on the planet. The coast attracts millions of vacationing people each year. People love the sand, the surf, the sea breeze, and the vacation ambiance so much that many come to the beach to stay. There is a magical feeling living near the ocean, but human migration towards the coast comes with a high environmental price tag.

A majority of the world’s population lives within 50 km of the coast and the projections are 75% by the year 2025. This strip of land represents only 3% of the total land mass of the planet. In this context, it is easier to understand the environmental impact. Over 70% of the earth is covered by water and with so many people living on the coast, we are polluting a major source of food, the oceans.

A beautiful undeveloped beach in Indonesia.

A beautiful undeveloped beach in Indonesia.

The loss of life and economic impacts of major storms – cyclones, typhoons, and hurricanes – and tsunamis would be reduced drastically if beaches were not developed. Unfortunately, recent examples of the problem are numerous: 1999 Indian cyclone Orissa (over 10,000 dead and $5 billion in damage), 2004 Indian Ocean tsumani (over 250,000 dead), 2005 Hurricane Katrina (over 1,800 killed and $80 billion in damage), and 2008 Hurricane Ike (over 30 killed and $30 billion in damage).

Today, the health, beauty, and ecosystem function of the world’s beaches are under threat and the driving causes for most of these problems are over-development and poor coastal management. If no buildings crowded the shoreline there would be no shoreline armoring, beach nourishment, threats to the beach fauna and flora or shoreline erosion problems.

It is important to distinguish between erosion and erosion problems. Erosion refers to the landward retreat of the shoreline. Most of the world’s shorelines are eroding, a very few are building out (accreting). There is no erosion problem, however, until someone builds something next to a shoreline. All over the world in remote areas, shorelines are slowly retreating and no one cares. In a global sense, our continents are slowly shrinking, and in a very real sense, erosion problems are man made. On a high-rise, condo-lined shoreline like those in Spain and the Florida coast, erosion is a huge problem and will only worsen in the future as sea level rise accelerates. Sea level rise will accelerate erosion of the shoreline and have a dramatic impact on our infrastructures, our economies, and our way of life.

Sea level rise is one of the most important causes of global shoreline erosion. If the coastline is developed, shoreline armoring is often used in an effort to save the buildings from the eroding shoreline. Once this begins, the beaches will degrade and eventually be lost. In the long-term, however, these armoring efforts are in vain. The ocean will continue to rise as the rate of sea level rise is expected to increase as the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets continue to degrade. The situation is made worse now because beach houses and condominiums are being built closer to the ocean than they were 25 years ago. Many of us are familiar with images of large beach houses about to fall victim to the oceans simply from daily erosion accelerated by the ever rising sea.

The work of the Santa Aguila Foundation will emphasize the impacts of sand mining and shoreline armoring: the first because the effects of sand mining have been largely ignored on a global scale and the latter due to its overwhelming negative impacts on the world’s beaches.

Surfing in / Inform

Peru Examines Deaths of More Than 500 Pelicans

The government of Peru is investigating the mysterious deaths of more than 500 pelicans found along a 70km (40-mile) stretch of the country’s northern coast.

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Pacific Islands May Become Refuge for Corals in a Warming Climate, Study Finds

Scientists have predicted that ocean temperatures will rise in the equatorial Pacific by the end of the century, wreaking havoc on coral reef ecosystems. But a new study shows that climate change could cause ocean currents to operate in a surprising way…

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Pollution for the Sake of Economic Growth

Rapid economic growth will continue to be energy-intensive and highly polluting for the foreseeable future, adding to environmental harm on a global scale and having a tremendous impact on ecological systems, according to a study that looked at a decade’s worth of data from 30 Chinese provinces to build a comprehensive model of pollution.

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Antarctic Ice Melting From Warm Water Below

Most glacial ice melting occurs below the sea surface and in regions where ice shelves and icebergs are concentrated, as along the Antarctic coastline. That suggests that future sea levels could rise faster than many scientists have been predicting.

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Wind Pushes Plastics Deeper Into Oceans, Driving Trash Estimates Up

News, Pollution

After taking samples of water at a depth of 16 feet (5 meters), a researcher at the University of Washington, discovered that wind was pushing plastic particles below the surface. That meant that decades of research into how much plastic litters the ocean, conducted by skimming only the surface, may vastly underestimate the true amount of plastic debris in the oceans.

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Whale Found Dead in Washington, Had Swallowed Marine Debris

News, Pollution

A gray whale found dead in Washington state’s Puget Sound had been feeding on shrimp and also had some debris, including pieces of rope and plastic, golf ball and some flat spongy material found in its stomach NOAA Fisheries said.

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Former Sand Mining Site Being Considered for up to 2000 Homes, New South Wales

News, Sand Mining

The Kurnell sand dune system is estimated to be about 15,000 years old, and sand mining on the Kurnell peninsula has depleted the area of much of the sand that was originally there. A former mining site, is now considered for housing up to 2000 homes.. a disaster in waiting environmentalists said.

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Oil spilled in Russian Arctic

News, Pollution

An oil spill in the Russian Arctic at the Trebs field, affected an area of up to 8,000 square meters after workers tried to open an old well, causing oil to gush uncontrollably for 37 hours, spurting out up to 500 tonnes of oil per day.

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China, Iceland Announce Deal on Oil-Rich Arctic

News, Pollution

China and Iceland announced a deal on the oil-rich Arctic region Friday after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao flew in to Reykjavik on the first stage of a four-nation European tour…

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Recent / Inform

Beaches In Britain Beat 2010’s Bathing Quality Standards

May 26th, 2011

More beaches given the top rating this year, but slightly more failed to meet basic water standards

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The Peril of Plastic

May 26th, 2011

Many scientists believe marine plastic pollution is one of the major issues, along with climate change, facing the planet.

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Plastic Pollution in Namibia

May 26th, 2011

The beaches are beautiful, but a walk along the shoreline and a quick beach cleanup showed that like coastal areas all over the world, Namibia has a problem with plastic trash accumulating on its otherwise relatively pristine beaches.

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Mediterranean Sea Invaded by Hundreds of Alien Species

May 25th, 2011

More than 900 new alien species have been encountered in the coastal environments of the eastern Mediterranean Sea in recent decades.

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Australian Sea levels Set To Rise By Up To a Metre: Report

May 23rd, 2011

Sea levels will rise by more than three feet by the end of the century making severe coastal flooding a common factor of life in Australia if urgent action is not taken to limit climate change, a key report by a panel of climate scientists has found.

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Division over future of Chagos islands and islanders

May 22nd, 2011

Meeting in London addresses environmental issues surrounding the ban on inhabitation of the Indian Ocean archipelago. The central question was how to balance the archipelago’s environmental importance with its original inhabitants’ argued right to go home.

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Hong Kong bans trawling to save fish stocks and marine environment

May 20th, 2011

A decision welcomed by conservationists, as a crucial move to save fish stocks and revive the city’s depleted marine environment.

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Seismic Shift? As Bahamas islands Sink, One Island Mysteriously Rises

May 19th, 2011

All the islands in the Bahamas were thought to be slowly sinking, but now scientists made a surprise discovery of recent tectonic activity in a region that was up to now considered stable, finding one quirky isle going against the crowd.

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Haiti’s Coastline Clean-Up

May 19th, 2011

Every September, from Maine to Bangladesh, hundreds of thousands of people in more than 75 countries remove millions of pounds of trash from waterways and beaches all over the world during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC); inspired by its success, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, has launched a range of activities across three regions of the country.

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Environmental controls of giant kelp in the Santa Barbara Channel, California

May 18th, 2011

Forests of giant kelp are located in temperate coastal regions throughout the world. They are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth, and giant kelp itself provides food and habitat for numerous ecologically and economically important near-shore marine species.

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Coastal Care junior
The World's Beaches
Sand Mining
One Percent