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

EPA Board Rejects Appeal of Shell Arctic Permit

News, Pollution

Shell Alaska spokesman said in a formal announcement that the decision means Shell, for the first time, has usable air permits that will allow its drill ship to work in the outer continental shelf off Alaska’s northwest coast in 2012…

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Bold Plan Proposed to Save Coastal Louisiana

A $50 billion, 50-year proposal aspires to stop coastal land loss in Louisiana. Since the 1930s, the state’s coast has lost about 1,900 square miles, an area larger than Rhode Island.

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Greenland’s Ice Is Growing Darker

In the past decade satellites have observed a decrease in Greenland’s reflectiveness. This darker surface now absorbs more sunlight, which accelerates melting. So why is the area becoming darker?

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Australia’s Government Plans To Increase Sand Dredging In Great Barrier Of Reef Area

Figures obtained through Senate Estimates reveal more than 112 million cubic metres – or 65 Melbourne Cricket Grounds – are proposed to be dredged from the Great Barrier Reef​ World Heritage area, with 52 million cubic metres already approved by the Federal Government.

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Stricken Rena Cargo Ship Finally Sinks Off New Zealand’s Coast

News, Pollution

Debris and oil is floating from the mess of the sinking Rena container ship as its stern finally slips under the water more than three months after it ran into New Zealand’s Astrolabe reef. Officials said trajectory projections showed containers could wash up on beaches as far as Mercury Bay over the next few years.

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Belize Protected Area Boosting Predatory Fish Populations

Sensitive coral reef ecosystems require a delicate balance of marine life to thrive. From the barracudas at the top of the food chain to the algae at the bottom, the system works together to keep itself healthy. A 14-year study by the WCS in an atoll reef lagoon in Glover’s Reef, Belize, has found that fishing closures there produce encouraging results.

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Mexico Says 1,500-barrel Oil Spill Controlled

News, Pollution

Mexico’s Environment Department says a spill of 1,500 barrels of oil from a pipeline near the Gulf coast has been brought under control, and about 40 percent of the oil has been recovered. Video from the scene shows the banks of the river coated in black sludge.

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Nigeria’s Oil Disasters Are Met By Silence

News, Pollution

The global media have had little to say on Nigeria’s latest oil spill and the hundreds of others that have destroyed so many lives. In any other region of the world the behaviour of the oil companies involved would result in major sanctions and criminal prosecutions…

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Disaster zone as oil slick threatens Christmas Island

News, Pollution

Christmas Island is bracing for an environmental and economic crisis after a stricken Panama-flagged MV Tycoon container ship split in two at Flying Fish Cove yesterday afternoon, having been ripped from its berth by a big swell, and leaked tonnes of pollutants into its pristine waters. Experts warned that the spill was a potential disaster for the ecologically important area, with crabs, birds and coral all threatened.

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Recent / Inform

Ban on plastic shopping bags, Italy

January 3rd, 2011

A ban on plastic bags has come into effect January 1st, in Italy, which has one of the highest rates of consumption of the bags in Europe.

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250 billion plastic fragments in Mediterranean

December 30th, 2010

The estimate comes from French and Belgian marine biologists who analysed water samples taken in July off France, northern Italy and Spain. The figure derives from 4,371 minute pieces of plastic, average weight 1.8 milligrams (0.00006 of an ounce) found in the samples, which extrapolates to roughly 500 tonnes for the entire Mediterranean.

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What’s Outside Counts, Too: European Law and Excess Packaging

December 27th, 2010

The citizens of Lincolnshire, England, were so fed up with the layers of plastic and cardboard and Styrofoam that encased their store purchases this fall that they took a high-priced, highly wrapped piece of meat to court.

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Australia’s Twelve Apostles

December 26th, 2010

The Twelve Apostles is the name given to a collection of natural limestone stacks that rise up to 150ft (46m) from the sea and were formed by erosion of the original coastline, which began 10 to 20 million years ago.The coast is dynamic and as erosion is ongoing, some more stacks are collapsing while other “Apostles” are likely to form from further erosion of other rocky headlands that line the Victorian coastline.

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King Tides Seen as a Model for Rising Seas

December 23rd, 2010

The King Tide Photo Initiative 2010, launched by the British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment in Canada, asks individuals to record the possible impacts of sea level rise by photographing high water level events in B.C.’s coastal areas, to help build a photo library and to offer us a chance to visualize what normal sea levels may look like in the future.

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Urban Stormwater Runoff: A Significant Source of Beachwater Pollution

December 22nd, 2010

Stormwater runoff is generated when precipitation from rain and snowmelt events flows over land or impervious surfaces and does not percolate into the ground. Stormwater runoff is the most frequently identified source of beach closing and advisory days. The best way to protect beachgoers from water contamination is to prevent pollution from reaching the beach.

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Sea-level study brings good and bad news to Chesapeake Bay

December 22nd, 2010

A new study of local sea-level trends by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science brings both good and bad news to localities concerned with coastal inundation and flooding along the shores of Chesapeake Bay.

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100% of Most Challenging Plastic Wrapping Could Be Recycled With New Technology

December 21st, 2010

Researchers at the University of Warwick have devised a new technique which could process 100% of household plastic instead of the tiny fraction that currently actually gets processed.

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Sydney’s Beach protection attempt may carry price tag of $700m

December 20th, 2010

Preserving Sydney’s beaches against rising sea levels could cost more than $700 million over the next 50 years and would require the government to reverse its long-standing position regarding offshore sand mining.

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Magdalen Islands and Shoreline Erosion, Québec

December 19th, 2010

In Québec, shoreline erosion primarily affects the estuarine regions and the Gulf of St-Lawrence that extends from Québec city to the Magdalen Islands.

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