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

Russian oil rig sinking casts doubt on Arctic plan

The sinking of a floating oil rig that left more than 50 crew dead or missing is intensifying fears that Russian companies searching for oil in remote areas are unprepared for emergencies, and could cause a disastrous spill in the pristine Arctic region…

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Dutch Court Turns Down Trafigura Appeal On Toxic Waste

News, Pollution

An Amsterdam appeals court Friday upheld a million-euro fine against multinational oil trader Trafigura for the illegal export of toxic waste, later dumped around Abidjan, causing environmental and human disaster in Ivory Coast.

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Seattle Officials Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags

News, Pollution

The Seattle City Council voted Monday to ban single-use plastic bags from groceries and other retail stores, joining a growing trend among cities that embrace green values.

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Dutch Unveil Plan In War Against The Sea: A Sandbar

In its age-old war to keep back the sea, low-lying Netherlands has dumped sand onto a surface larger than 200 football fields just off the coast, and will wait for nature to do the rest…

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TK Bremen Cargo Ship Leaks Fuel Off French Coast

News, Pollution

High winds beached a cargo ship on France’s Atlantic coast and some of the 220 tons of fuel on board leaked out, threatening a local beach.

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Shell Arctic drilling conditionally approved

News, Pollution

A Royal Dutch Shell subsidiary received federal approval Friday for drilling exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast but with conditions that raised concerns with the state’s congressional delegation.

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Chevron faces $10.6bn Brazil legal suit over oil spill

News, Pollution

Brazilian federal prosecutors are seeking 20 billion reais (some $10 billion) for environmental damages from US oil supermajor Chevron and Swiss-based Transocean for an oil spill that began in early November, when wells leaked off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.

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How tourism is taking the turtles from Kenya’s blue waters

Tourism has boomed along Kenya’s 500km coastline in the past 30 years. Now a global hotspot for turtle-spotting, Kenya is facing a problem, the tourists are destroying what they come for

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Prime Indonesian Jungle To Be Cleared For Palm Oil

The man known as Indonesia’s “green governor” gave a palm oil company a permit to develop land in one of the few places on earth where orangutans, tigers and bears still can be found living side-by-side, violating Indonesia’s new moratorium on concessions in primary forests and peatlands. That’s why 5,000 villagers living on the edge of a rich, biodiverse peat swamp in this tsunami-ravaged Aceh province feel so betrayed…

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Recent / Inform

The Last house of Sinking Chesapeake Bay Island

November 27th, 2010

The story was strange enough to be a child’s fable: In an isolated section of the Chesapeake Bay, there was a two-story Victorian house that seemed to emerge directly from the water. And, scurrying around it, there was a retiree, trying to keep the house from falling in.

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Cancún must be about more than climate change

November 27th, 2010

Our planet is finite, our fates are intertwined, our choice is clear: stand together or fall divided.

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Blue Flag or Red Herring: Do beach awards encourage the public to visit beaches?

November 26th, 2010

Surveys of beach visitor motivation in Ireland, Wales, Turkey and the USA indicate that beach awards play an insignificant role in motivation to visit beaches.

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Bangladesh and Maldives: Sand Export Deal in Sight

November 26th, 2010

Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed expressed keenness to import sand from Bangladesh, as his country would be inundated if the sea level rises by only a metre.

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Alaskan Coast: Feds set aside critical habitat for polar bear

November 26th, 2010

Nearly 95 percent of the designated habitat is sea ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas of Alaska’s northern coast.

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Scientists Call for Protection and Better Management for Australian Reefs

November 24th, 2010

The eastern subtropical coastline, and increasingly the west too, are among Australia’s fastest-growing regions, throwing surging human pressures on ecosystems.

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Sinking Sundarbans: A Photo Gallery by Peter Caton, Greenpeace

November 23rd, 2010

The seas around the islands in the Bay of Bengal that support a unique mangrove ecosystem, are rising faster than anywhere else on Earth, and the lives and livelihoods of more than 4 million residents are under threat from rising waters.

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From the East and West Coasts, a Game Plan on Sea Level Rise

November 22nd, 2010

New York State and California are creating blueprints for how governments should plan, and pay for, a wholesale retreat from the shoreline in anticipation of a possible rise in sea level of three or four feet or more by 2100.

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As world warms, negotiators give talks another try

November 21st, 2010

The disappointment of Copenhagen, the failure of the annual U.N. conference to produce a climate agreement last year in the Danish capital, has raised doubts about whether the long-running, 194-nation talks can ever agree on a legally binding treaty for reining in global warming.

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The Last of The Sea Nomads

November 20th, 2010

For generations they have lived on the ocean, diving and fishing, and rarely setting foot on land. But now the marine nomads risk destroying the reefs that sustain them. It’s a common story throughout the Coral Triangle.

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