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

Liberia’s Hasty Forest Sell-Off Risks More Conflict

More than half of Liberia’s forests — dense and packed with rare and endangered species, sprawling for hundreds of miles over the small coastal country — have been granted to logging firms, bypassing environmental laws and with few benefits to the people.

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Seabirds Study Shows Plastic Pollution Reaching Surprising Levels Off Coast of Pacific Northwest

News, Pollution

Plastic pollution off the northwest coast of North America is reaching the level of the notoriously polluted North Sea, according to a new study led by a researcher at the University of British Columbia.

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Save The Arctic Video, Greenpeace

The melting Arctic is under threat from oil drilling, industrial fishing and conflicts.

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New NOAA Website Offers Tips to Prepare For Coastal Flooding

Coastal flooding is often the greatest threat to life and property during and after storms.

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Growing Traffic in Sri Lanka’s Waters Threatens Blue Whales

Fifteen miles off the southern coast of Sri Lanka is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, and whales are known to swim regularly inside them…

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Arctic drilling creeps forward now, and in 5 years

News, Pollution

In choppy water under blue sky off Bellingham, Wash., a Shell Oil crew lowered a “capping stack” 200 feet in the water and put it through maneuvers with underwater robots connected by cable to operators on the surface, a test that fulfilled one of the final steps required for permission to drill exploratory wells in Arctic waters…

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Global Network Will Track Acidifying Oceans

A global effort to track ocean acidification has begun to take shape, as researchers this week made plans to set up an international network of monitoring stations.

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Toronto Council Votes for Plastic Bag Ban

News, Pollution

Canada’s largest city will eliminate its mandatory plastic bag fee on Sunday, just six months before joining the growing movement to ban the single-use bags entirely.

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Sea versus Senators

Could nature be mocking North Carolina’s law-makers? Less than two weeks after the state’s senate passed a bill banning state agencies from reporting that sea-level rise is accelerating, research has shown that the coast between North Carolina and Massachusetts is experiencing the fastest sea-level rise in the world…

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Recent / Inform

Proposed Ports Gravely Threatens Coastal Beauty, India

August 20th, 2011

Galloping capital flow into coastal infrastructure development will see a port built every 32 km along India’s 480kms’ coast. India aims to pour $60 billion into ports by 2020 under a drive to spur the fastest growth in more than two decades. The most serious and direct implication is aggravated coastal erosion, which will deprive local communities of the beaches on which their lives and livelihoods depend.

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Pacific Walruses Studied as Sea Ice Melts

August 19th, 2011

The extent of sea ice has been less in recent summers, and large herds of walruses have been hauling out on beaches in Alaska and Russia in the past few years, forsaking sea ice for sand in what has become a symbol of climate warming. Studies show that In 2010, walruses came ashore in late August, and this year, the sea ice disappeared from the shelf earlier, and walruses have already begun to come ashore.

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Sand For Sale: Environment Ravages

August 18th, 2011

The “king Of Koh Kong” has defied an order endorsed by the Cambodia’s Prime Minster to halt his controversial and environmentally damaging sand dredging activities on the Tatai river in Koh Kong.

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Raising Awareness of Plastic Waste

August 15th, 2011

Most people are familiar with the concept of a carbon footprint. Many may also know there is such a thing as a water footprint. But whoever heard of a plastic footprint? Well, soon, more and more people will have. The Plastic Disclosure Project aims to “push the thinking about plastic pollution far beyond beach cleanups with an attempt to change the awareness and behavior of big users of plastic”…

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Bali Struggles With the Dark Side of Success

Bali Plastic Pollution

August 12th, 2011

Bali may still be the Island of the Gods and the Island of a Thousand Temples, but it is certainly no longer the island of pristine beaches. Construction cranes on beaches, damaged coral, and floating trash in the turquoise waters off Bali and on its sandy beaches, are unfortunate signs of just how successful the Indonesian resort island has been leading to coastal over-exploitation and pollution.

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Worldwide Map Identifies Important Coral Reefs Exposed to Stress

August 12th, 2011

The world’s coral reefs face a multitude of threats, from rising ocean temperatures to overfishing. A new map aimed at aiding coral conservation has been developed that points out the reefs that are most and least at risk.

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Environmental Impacts of Algae-Derived Biodiesel

August 11th, 2011

Algae-based fuel is one of many options among the array of possible future energy sources.

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Dead Zone Off Gulf Coast, As Large As The State Of New Jersey

August 10th, 2011

Dead zones off the coast, are fueled by nutrient runoff from agricultural and other human activities in the Mississippi River watershed, which stimulates an overgrowth of algae that sinks, decomposes and consumes most of the life-giving oxygen supply in bottom waters. These chronic, recurring hypoxic zones every summer represent a significant threat to Gulf coastal ecosystems.

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Ghana’s Ongoing Battle Against Coastal erosion

August 9th, 2011

According to estimates, the ocean claims 1.5 to 2 metres of the 539- kilometres Ghana coastline annually; with the most risky coastal areas, Ada Foah and the Eastern parts of Keta, recording 4 metres. Ghana’s Government decided on a costly and controversial project: the building of a 68 million euros, 30 kms “Ada Defense Sea Wall” to “salvage the people in the area from the ravages of the sea…”

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Oil slick spreads from sunken ship off Mumbai

August 8th, 2011

Indian authorities worked to clean up an oil spill from a cargo ship that sank off Mumbai last week, with oil found on beaches and in water near the city’s shoreline.

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